Study finds young voters detached

By Tania Anderson, States News Service, 12/6/2000

ASHINGTON - Generation X and the men running for president didn't exactly click during this year's race for the White House, according to a study released yesterday.

Though 60 percent of people between age 18 and 34 were registered to vote in the election, only 40 percent cast ballots in the presidential race - a lower percentage than any other age group - the study found.

Nor are presidential candidates campaigning much among voters between age 18 and 29, according to ''Neglection 2000,'' a project conducted by Third Millennium, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization in New York.

Governor George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore spent their time and resources wooing older voters and failed to develop issues that directly affect Generation X, project officials said.

Young adults said the candidates failed to explain adequately their positions on postsecondary education, jobs, retirement, and health care.

The blame, however, does not rest solely on the candidates. Younger voters are less inclined to trust politicians and pay attention to the campaigns, and they don't use the Internet to research the candidates, project officials said.

''We are fully aware that the candidates do not target young people because young people do not vote,'' said Richard Thau, president of Third Millennium. ''For campaigns, it is a question of economics. Why waste precious resources on a group that has no payoff?''

Political observers say they see a backlash brewing among the generation following Generation X - known as the Millennials. These are people born after 1982.

They will rebel against the politics of the Baby Boomers by becoming more involved in political issues, some said.

''They show every sign of being the most upbeat and engaged,'' said Bill Strauss, coauthor of ''Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation.''

''They are looking at Baby Boomers as a mean-spirited generation of politicians,'' Strauss said.

Panelists at a daylong conference in Washington said young people need to learn more about their government, while candidates must make themselves more accessible to younger voters through debates and forums.

''The problem is that young people don't see relevance with national politics,'' said Bill Hillsman, president of North Woods Advertising in Minnesota, who worked on advertising for Ralph Nader's 2000 presidential campaign. ''Until there's a link to its relevance, we don't know what's going to change.''