BOSTON — SEMRA MESULAM, a freshman at Cheltenham (Pa.) High School, doubts that the presidential candidates really care about her views and those of other young Americans. But, she says, they should.
"We're going to be influential in the next few years," says Semra, adding that she's looking forward to voting in the next presidential election.
A poll of American students, released last week by educational publisher Scholastic Inc., found that 62 percent of students say they are interested in the 1992 election campaign. The survey also shows that the next generation of voters are concerned about their future and skeptical about the presidential candidates.
Almost 3,000 students in Grades 3-12 were interviewed at 150 public and private schools nationwide. More than half of the students forecast that life in the United States will be worse 10 years from now. Young people say they are most concerned about drugs, AIDS, and the economy.
"The survey really represents a warning sign to the American public that America's high school students, in particular, are very concerned about the future of this country," says Ernest Fleishman, Scholastic's director of education.
Sixty-one percent of high schoolers say their No. 1 concern is the economy. "I question how good a job I'm going to be able to get," says Semra.
But her classmate, Eric Schinfeld, says, m pretty optimistic that by the time I'm out of college or graduate school, the economy will have turned around."
Although 53 percent of younger children think that elected officials care about the concerns of young people, only 26 percent of junior high students and 17 percent of high schoolers agree.
The president got much higher grades from elementary students than from older students. Nearly half of all students in Grades 3-5 gave him an "A." But high schoolers who gave the president an (10 percent) outnumbered those who gave him an (8 percent).
Not surprisingly, George Bush leads the other presidential candidates in name recognition among students. But David Duke came in second place, receiving 44 percent recognition among all students. Among high schoolers, President Bush, Mr. Duke, Bill Clinton, and Pat Buchanan had the highest name recognition.
Although only 12 percent of students think the best-qualified people are running for president, 62 percent say the person in the White House can really make a difference in solving the nation's problems.