Survey shows voter turnout low among BYU students

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    By Janel Esplin

    Residents will cast their votes Tuesday, June 27 for the primary elections, but statistics predict there will be a minority of student voters.

    When it comes to politics and students, a random survey of 100 BYU students indicated there simply is not much of a correlation.

    The survey showed only 21 percent voted in the last election.

    Utah Lt. Gov. Olene Walker expressed her concern about the decreasing numbers of voters in the 18-25 age group here in Utah and across the country.

    “The apathetic attitude of so many young people is unfortunate. They seem to be turned off by the political process.

    “If they would become more involved in the political arena, they would realize that they really can make a difference. There is a great deal that young people can do,” she said.

    According to Walker, BYU students, like most college-age students, feel that what is going on in national politics does not affect them and that they can not make a difference.

    Indeed, the decreasing trend among young voters that Walker spoke of can be seen here at BYU.

    However, there are some students among the BYU population who are very involved in political activities.

    For example, Jann Cahoon, vice-chair of the BYU College Republicans, was appointed to be the chair of the district caucus in her hometown of Sandy.

    But, such politically active students are hard to find. The survey indicated that 76 percent of the students have never been and never plan on being involved in politics in any way, and 63 percent of the students surveyed have never voted.

    In the midst of the presidential elections, only 53 percent of the students planned on voting this fall.

    There seems to be several possible explanations for the indifference of BYU students toward national politics.

    Shawn Jones, a member of the BYU College Republicans, said he thinks Latter-day Saint young adults feel that because many of the controversial issues facing the country do not affect them, there is no need for them to get involved.

    “With the situation our country is in, there are a lot of reasons for Latter-day Saints to get frustrated, but that is all the more reason to get involved.

    “The Prophet has said that we need to become involved in political issues. With 30,000 students here at BYU, I think we could do a lot more,” Jones said.

    Jones said one of the main problems here in Utah is that Latter-day Saints are part of majority that is in control, so they feel comfortable.

    Indeed, of the 63 percent of students who feel BYU students are less involved, many explained that this is because there is less diversity at BYU, and in turn, less controversy and debate over issues.

    As far as national issues go, many students said they think BYU students are pretty sheltered.

    Only 5 percent said they feel that BYU students as a whole are adequately aware of or concerned about the issues this country is facing.

    Dave Schorr, a junior from Declo, Idaho, majoring in international studies, said BYU students have other things on their minds.

    “Students here don’t really concern themselves with what is going on in the country because they’re more worried about their studies and dating,” he said.

    Melissa Ransom, former State Chair of College Republicans, said the lack of political involvement at BYU is something she is concerned about.

    “Opposition is what fires up people to get involved, and there isn’t much here at BYU,” she said.

    Growing up in Provo, Ransom said it was not opposition that got her interested in politics, but rather, patriotism.

    She said she felt it was her duty to do what she could to help her country and stand up for her beliefs.

    Once she started to become more aware of what was going on, she said her perspective changed.

    “I saw how much political issues really affect us, and now I know I will always be involved,” Ransom said. “There really is a lot students can do, such as campaigning, lobbying and running for office themselves.”

    Although most students are not very aware or involved in what is going on, 89 percent said they feel voting is an important thing for them to do.

    UVSC student Nate Powell has helped start a new club called Students for Political Awareness.

    “Voting is our basic tool of political power. If you don’t vote, you can’t criticize.

    “Unfortunately, life is crazy for college students, and the political process just doesn’t seem to concern them. We just want to help students realize that their vote really does count,” Powell said.

    He said it seems to be worse in Utah than in other parts of the country because there is not a viable two-party system.

    Powell, who is a democrat, said many students simply feel there is such an overwhelming majority that their voice can not be heard, and they can not really make a difference.

    “My main concern is the lack of awareness among college-age students about what is going on, and the extremely apathetic attitude that many have toward politics,” Powell said.

    Many of the politically active students at BYU seem to agree that they feel a sense of responsibility when it comes to politics.

    “As LDS students, I feel that we have a responsibility to stand up for our beliefs and values. We need to take advantage of our rights. It is our responsibility to do all that we can to elect good officers and push for laws that limit Satan’s influence,” Jones said.

    To vote in Tuesday’s primary election go to the Utah County elections Web site.

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