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Social Issues May Not Drive Youth Vote

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A Project by American University Students
Thursday, November 29, 2007; 9:13 AM

Despite overwhelmingly liberal views on both abortion and same-sex marriage, fewer than 40 percent of the college students surveyed by American University's Politics in the Media class said either issue was very important in deciding which candidate to vote for in the 2008 presidential election.

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With 27 percent of the surveyed students placing themselves on the "pro-life" end of the political spectrum, this falls far short of the national average of registered voters, 43 percent of which consider themselves opposed to abortion, according to a July 2007 ABC News-Washington Post poll.

About 76 percent of the college respondents said they were in favor of gay marriage, compared to the national average of 27 percent of all adults, according to an April 2005 ABC News-Washington Post poll.

While the college students surveyed by the class were more liberal than the rest of the American public on social issues, relatively few placed social issues on the top of their voting agenda. When asked to name the most important issues facing the country as well as themselves, respondents gave a variety of answers, from the war in Iraq to education. About 2 percent of respondents ranked reproductive rights are the most important issue facing the country, while 6 percent of respondents said reproductive rights were the most crucial issue to them personally. About 5 percent responded that same-sex marriage was their most personally important policy focus.

These issues also played a role when supporting candidates in the 2008 presidential election. When asked which candidate they would support if the election was held today, Catherine Homsey, a senior at Georgetown University, answered, "Mike Huckabee because he takes a pro-life stance and protects the sanctity of human life."

A senior from North Dakota State University, who asked that her name be withheld, said she would vote for Hillary Clinton even though she "does not support gay marriage but she supports gay unions."

A male sophomore from Notre Dame University said, "I like Giuliani's views on abortion; he is the only Republican whose views are similar to mine."

Michael Sullivan, a freshman at Benedictine College in Atchinson, Kansas, said views on reproductive rights would be central to his presidential vote and he would ultimately "go with one [candidate] that is pro-life in all senses of the issue."

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