Stephen Nair
Staff Writer

According to a wide-ranging survey in 2004 of U.S. college freshmen by USA Today, political interest among young people is on the rise, where they say it’s important to keep up with politics.
The results were based on written responses from 276,449 students at 413 four-year colleges.
The Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California-Los Angeles Graduate School of Education and Information Studies recently published the freshman survey.
The annual survey shows political awareness rising, where “keeping up to date with political affairs” and “influencing the political power structure” was an actual life goal.
William Damon, director of Stanford University’s Center on Adolescence, who is studying a group of 440 people ages 12 to 22, concluded that freshmen in the 90s were individualistic, personal and materialistic when it came to getting involved in what could be called social issues.
The gap between traditional politics and issues that ignite student passion is real, said Rob Richie, executive director of the Center for Voting and Democracy in Washington, D.C.
“How an individual is raised defines one’s political inclination, and any form of political activity in this regard is merely the response to take action for one’s belief,” said Republican Melissa Vincent, an undecided freshman.
Vincent said she comes from a very Republican family where issues concerning the family are discussed openly.
“This is probably why political issues became very important to me,” Vincent said.
Data from recent primaries show 18- to 24-year-olds remain the least likely age group to vote. The idea is to impress on them higher stakes, conflict between candidates and the realization among freshmen that they have a stake in the outcome, the study said.
Lora Jane Walker, a senior in journalism and electronic media, said she finds that she and her peers are more able to express their political views as a result of political science classes during their freshman and sophomore years.
“I am able to distinguish between conservatism and liberalism not merely as bipartisan politics, but I can express the underlying philosophy that has made this country great,” she said.
Alecia Davis, senior in psychology and nursing, is a mother of a 23-year-old and has tried to inculcate in her son the complexities of government policies and how they directly affect their lives.
“Today’s student has so many things going on in their lives that they don’t seem to have the time to get involved in politics,” Davis said. “They have to take time to study the candidates and make an informed decision as to who should represent them. Political involvement is not possible without participation from the grassroot level.”
Surveyed students said strong family ties and upbringing combines with the media to influence the nature of political awareness.
“I have a great sense of political awareness which I owe to my grandmother,” Chris Bolen, a junior in marketing, said.
Bolen’s grandmother, who is active in local political circles, constantly talks to him and involves him in party affairs so that he said he has a sound understanding of what’s going on. He voted in both the national and local election.