A Rockin' Youth Vote

Voter turnout for this year's presidential election was the highest since 1968. But one notable achievement was in the youth vote. Some 52 percent of eligible voters ages 18 to 29 went to the polls, compared with 42 percent four years ago, and 35 percent in 1996.

In 10 battleground states - where citizens couldn't help but be blitzed by the TV ad wars and voter mobilization groups - turnout of that age group was an amazing 64 percent, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at the University of Maryland.

These rising numbers belie a common assumption among politicians that they should focus mainly on the concerns of seniors and middle-age voters. If tapped well, youth activism can help turn an election.

CIRCLE's research showed the more that young people are recruited (especially by other youth) to vote, the more likely they are to turn out at the polls. About 8 million of the voters under 30 voted for the first time.

The Internet's role in this election has made it an indispensable campaign tool, and since many young people practically live on the Web, they were more easily mobilized by Net solicitations than by traditional means, such as phone calls on land lines.

Political passions in this election ran high, accounting for much of the higher turnout. Still, with more young people voting, perhaps they will turn this civic duty into a regular habit.

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