- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Young Americans have seriously embraced politics, according to a Harvard University survey released yesterday.

Three-quarters of the 2,923 18-to-24-year-olds polled are registered to vote, and they prefer to talk up elections rather than celebrity gossip. A strong majority favor making English the nation’s official language.

“Political parties and candidates looking for success in the polls of 2008 should take notice,” said Jeanne Shaheen, director of the university’s Institute of Politics, which conducted the research.

The days of Rock the Vote and other gimmicky forms of political involvement may be on the wane.

“In the seven years we have been conducting this national poll, we have seen a marked difference in political engagement and attitudes of young people,” poll director John Della Volpe said.

Voter turnout in the 29 million-member demographic is on the rise, from 31 percent in the presidential election of 2000 to 47 percent in 2004, according to current records. The survey found, however, that 79 percent of the respondents plan to turn out in 2008 — though a majority (55 percent) were still unsure which party they would vote for when primary time rolls around.

Among Democratic choices for the White House, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois trumped Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York as “first choice” for the ballot, followed by former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina and Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio.

Among Republicans, respondents preferred former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, followed by Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Rep. Duncan Hunter of California were tied in fourth place.

Clear party preferences are a little murky, however. Thirty-five percent of the respondents said they were Democrats and a quarter were Republicans; 40 percent were either independents or unaffiliated. Forty percent were liberal, 35 percent conservative, and 19 percent were moderate.

And while President Bush won the approval of only 31 percent, the Democrats don’t necessarily have the situation sewn up, either. Only 21 percent felt that the direction of the country had changed significantly since Democrats took control of Congress in January.

As far as their conversations with friends, the respondents said they talked most about the war in Iraq, followed by the 2008 presidential campaign, U.S. politics, celebrity gossip, global warming and the environment, the latest sports news and the job market.

The young definitely favor English. Asked if a law should be passed making English the nation’s official language, 72 percent answered a “resounding yes,” the poll found. The number was 53 percent among Asian respondents and 51 percent among Hispanics.

As a whole, the respondents were 64 percent white, 17 percent Hispanic and 13 percent black. Nine percent were married, and 4 percent were in the military.

The poll, which included 1,440 U.S. citizens enrolled in colleges or university and 1,483 citizens not enrolled, was conducted March 8-24, and has a margin of error of three percentage points.

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