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Professor reflects on student voters

Davis Rhorer, Jr. | Thursday, January 17, 2008

Sean Savage, a political science professor at Saint Mary’s, commented Wednesday on the role of college-aged voters in the recent Iowa, New Hampshire and Michigan presidential caucuses.

A highly-regarded authority on the American political system, Savage has given his insights on the recent primaries to a number of media outlets.

“The youngest voters are more likely to believe voting is not the only way to be a good citizen,” Savage said, contrasting the current generation of college students to older Americans.

Older voters, he said, are more likely to look at voting as an obligation similar to that of paying taxes or the military draft. Savage cited young Americans’ frequent service in their local communities and the Peace Corps as two examples of how they are diversifying the idea of responsible citizenship.

Savage identified a process he called “socialization,” or the steps taken by each citizen to form his or her own political views and opinions.

“The period of socialization for the youngest voters has become more complicated and takes longer,” Savage said. “The youngest people [today] are much more likely to go away to college. Compared to 10 years ago, students are more likely to study abroad.”

Savage spoke about the independence that many young people experience today. This contrasts with the more sedentary lifestyles of older voters, who often lived in the same regions where they grew up, adopting their parents’ political beliefs.

Savage said individual issues, rather than party affiliations, are important for college students today.

“There are so many young voters, even in their 20s, who vote candidate by candidate and issue by issue rather than by some party affiliation or set ideology,” he said.

Savage said many young voters will shift their political values in favor of individual concerns such as global warming.

Young people, according to Savage, are much less concerned with issues like race or gender and more concerned with innovative ideas and speeches. Whereas young people might downplay any controversies behind candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, older voters may be more inclined to recognize them as key aspects in their voting decisions.

“The youngest voters seek changes the sooner the better,” Savage said.

Savage is also a pre-law advisor at Saint Mary’s. He will be appearing on future media outlets pending invitations and future caucus results, he said.