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When Youth and Politics Collide

When Youth and Politics CollideTufts students and alumni were among the young people quizzing the Democratic presidential nomination candidates at CNN’s Rock The Vote in Boston. Boston.

Boston [11.09.03] As a group, young people don't often head to the polls in high numbers. But that doesn't mean they don't have a hand in shaping major elections. On Tuesday, eight Democratic candidates for President attended CNN's "Rock The Vote" in Boston - debating each other on roughly two dozen questions posed from the audience, including three from Tufts students and graduates.

Greg Propper - a 2001 Tufts graduate who works for a Boston non-profit - asked the candidates about their views on public service programs like Americorps, which recently had its funding cut.

"How can you assure me that young people who want to serve for barely minimum wage will be able to do so and give back to their country," Propper asked.

Public service, said Carol Moseley Braun, "goes to the heart of who we are as people."

The former ambassador said that young people who choose to serve their communities provide an invaluable resource.

"The thing that inspires me the most are the young people who continue to give and to reach outside themselves to make the community better," she told the audience of 600 voters aged 18 to 30.

Tufts senior Courtney DeMesme-Anders asked the question that many in the room likely had on their minds: How will the candidates embrace young voters?

Citing a host of issues that are of concern to young people - including the availability of jobs, the affordability of health care and the ability to save for the future - Senator John Edwards (D-NC) pledged to listen to the needs of young voters throughout his campaign.

"I will wake up every day - both as the nominee and as President of the United States - fighting for you and people like you," Edwards told the Tufts senior.

Will that be enough to draw young people to the polls? Maybe, but it won't be easy, says a Tufts expert.

"College students are the worst voters that are out there, mostly because they are highly mobile and they're new to the communities that they live in," Glaser - an associate professor of political science - told CNN.

Data from recent elections confirms Glaser's views.

"[According to the Associated Press], in the 2000 elections, just 29 percent of eligible voters between the ages of 18 and 24 cast ballots for president, compared to 55 percent of all eligible voters," reported CNN.

But some candidates have embraced new technologies and strategies that appear to be building momentum among young voters.

"Those candidates who are reaching [young people] in ways that they're used to, are finding that they're resonating with young people," Glaser - who was recently appointed dean for Undergraduate Education in Arts, Sciences and Engineering - told CNN.

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