Dallas, TX – We've heard a lot about young people making a difference in this year's election. Rachael Dunlap is an SMU student tracking the youth vote. With one day left until our Texas Primary, she tried to get a feel for whether the expected surge of young voters will really happen.
It's late afternoon at the Southern Methodist University Student Center. Some students are grabbing a quick bite to eat. Others are surfing the web or studying in small groups.
Brad Paxton took a break from his work to talk about the elections. He is excited about voting because this is the first year he is old enough to cast a ballot. But like many others his age, he is having a hard time making up his mind.
Rachael Dunlap: So are you planning on voting on March 4th?
Brad Paxton: I am. Everyone keeps telling me I should vote early or that I should have already voted. I don't know. The candidates are so close. I'll have to look it up online. I will definitely vote though.
Young people are getting more and more involved politically. Chrissy Faessen of Rock the vote says the number of young voters has been on the rise since 2000. And young people are turning out in record numbers this year.
Chrissy Faessen: They are engaged. They are passionate. We have doubled, tripled, even quadrupled in some states our turnout at the polls from 2004 and 2000. This is a different generation. The millennial generation in engaged through different technologies - things like mobile messaging, things like Facebook, Myspace. The peer-to-peer, the on-the-ground, the grassroots stuff is really important.
Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are using the internet and online networking sites like Facebook to connect with voters. But the campaigns aren't the only ones. Anyone can create a political Facebook group, which allows users with similar interests to connect and communicate about candidates or issues. Ashley Winder is one student who has taken notice. She is leaning towards Obama.
Ashley Winder: Obama- obviously he has been really getting the attention of the youth. Hillary needs to work at it a little more though. You go on Facebook and there are groups like anyone but Hillary in 2008.
Clark Ransom has also noticed Obama's popularity with young people, but he supports Clinton.
Clark Ransom: I feel like the media is kind of jumping on the Barack thing. He is kind of the - I hate to say the flavor of the month - but young people like to grab onto the new and the exciting and I don't think they really look at the experience. Hillary maybe reminds them more of their mother or something like that.
Richard Niemi is a Political Science professor at the University of Rochester. He says the youth have seemingly given the Obama campaign momentum.
Niemi: If you see Obama drawing stadiums full of people, some individuals may or may not be directly persuaded, but they might well want to pay more attention. So, it can make a big difference in that way.
Now, back to SMU student center. Not everyone we talked to shared Brad Paxton's enthusiasm for the election. Sergio Martinez is one of several students we talked to who doesn't plan to vote.
Rachael Dunlap: Do you plan on going to the location and voting?
Martinez: No, I just not really into voting very much. So
So, will young people turn out and make a difference this year? We will find out Tuesday night.
Rachael Dunlap, KERA News.