By Adina Young and Casey Labrack
Special to washingtonpost.com
Monday, March 3, 2008 9:00 AM
A candidate's position on abortion could be the issue that gets young voters into the voting booth this year.
In an American University online survey last month of 18-to-29-year-olds in four battleground states, 23 percent of the 128 respondents said that they definitely would not vote for a candidate who disagreed with them on abortion policy. Forty percent said that they might consider changing their vote over abortion policy, but that it would depend on a candidate's views on other issues. One-third of the respondents answered that a candidate's position on abortion "wouldn't really matter" to them if they agreed with the candidate on most other issues.
In the survey 49 percent of the respondents identified themselves as pro-choice, while 29 percent identified themselves as pro-life, and 21 percent said that they were "somewhere in between" these two views. In the overall ranking of issues, 30 percent of the respondents said abortion is a very important issue, though it wasn't as important to them as the economy, which drew ranked highest by 67 percent of the respondents, or the the war in Iraq, which was ranked important by 64 percent of the respondents. Health care drew 46 percent of the respondents and 37 precent of respondents selected the environment as an issue of importance.
"I believe that women have the freedom to choose, and this right should not be revoked," said Rosia Warner, a pre-medical student at the University of Colorado at Boulder. "Although most deem this as a moral issue, I see it as an issue of sexism and humanism."
Although anti-abortion voices were a minority in the survey, some responses displayed strong feelings on the subject.
"I am pro-life and think that murder of innocent children is unacceptable," said Nathaniel Einarsen, a Marine from Colorado.
Respondents also said education was an important issue in the 2008 election cycle.
"In past years, with funding cuts, public education is clearly declining in the United States, relative to the rest of the world," said Rebecca Johnson, a student at the Colorado School of Mines. "An educated population is absolutely necessary for the country to remain scientifically, economically and even militarily competitive in the future."
Although there has been fierce debate about illegal immigration during the campaign and in Congress, only 34 percent of young people answered that illegal immigration is a "very important" issue in the race. Those surveyed were divided on policy towards immigration, however, with 55 percent saying that this statement comes closest to representing their views on immigration: " Legal immigration is fine, but our government must enforce border security, stop illegal immigration and punish employers who hire undocumented workers." At the same time, 46 percent of respondents said that this statement comes closest to representing their view: "Illegal immigration is a fact of life. Our government should create an open-door policy that welcomes law-abiding undocumented workers."
"Illegal immigrants won't stop coming, and many of our industries run on their labor," said recent Northwestern University graduate Melanie Wong, who now lives in Colorado. "We need to find a way to let more people in legally and let people who are already here and working get paid fairly and pay taxes."
Some respondents mentioned gay rights as an important social issue.
"The United States should be concerned with the welfare of its people," said Priscilla Ju, a student at The Ohio State University. "This includes homosexuals and bisexuals. We are all [this country's] people."