By KERSTIN SMIT
Political uninterest in college-age students is common, but BYU political club leaders are trying to combat this by encouraging political involvement on campus.
A survey taken every five years by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California-Los Angeles showed a 29-year low in political interest among college freshmen.
If uninterest is learned in the family then something is fundamentally wrong, said Dawn Lammers, a sophomore from Evansville, Ind., who is also vice president of BYU’s chapter of College Republicans.
Lammers’ role as vice president is to activate students in politics.
A variety of opportunities — from making phone calls for a candidate to national internships — are available through College Republicans.
Reasons for student apathy in politics include negative impressions from the media, said Kristen Winmill, a sophomore from Pocatello, Idaho, who is also president of BYU’s chapter of College Democrats.
“The press plays an adversarial role,” she said. “Politicians get negative publicity, then people who remotely follow politics get a negative impression.”
The College Democrats invite political candidates to campus to speak with students. Students become familiar with politicians’ issues and stances and this helps overcome negative impressions, Winmill said.
Perry Smith, a junior from Garden Grove, Calif., and president of the Dittohead Conservative Club, disagreed with Winmill about media’s role.
He said media, including talk radio, encourage political discussion.
“Nine out of 10 listeners of talk radio are registered voters, compared to six out of 10 who don’t listen,” he said, citing a “Talk Daily” poll of 3,000 people.
Tuning in to a talk radio show or a news program such as CNN are important ways for students to get informed about politics, Smith said.
“The news organizations break it down, if you’ll watch for a week, especially now during the election season, you’ll catch on,” he said.
People need to find an issue they’re really interested in, said Dave Jensen a sophomore from Issaquah, Wash., and president of BYU’s chapter of College Libertarians.
Even though some issues like Social Security benefits don’t affect students now, it’s very important to know what’s going on because political changes ultimately affect us, Jensen said.