Harvard Study Tells Parties to Court 'Religious Centrists'

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 13, 2006 | Go to article overview

Harvard Study Tells Parties to Court 'Religious Centrists'


Byline: Jennifer Harper, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

College students are becoming more religious, and it's affecting their political views, according to a new Harvard University survey of this potentially influential voting bloc. "Religious centrists" rule, according to the university.

A full 70 percent say religion plays an important part in their lives, with a quarter saying their spirituality has increased at college. Six out of 10 say they are concerned about the moral direction of the country, according to the poll of 1,200 students from across the country, conducted March 13 to 27 and released Tuesday.

"Religion and morality are critical to how students think about politics and form opinions on political issues," said Jeanne Shaheen, a former New Hampshire governor and director of Harvard's Institute of Politics, which conducted the poll.

The Harvard study advises political parties to woo the spiritually inclined, a demographic that the popular press mostly deemed the exclusive territory of the "religious right" in the past two presidential elections.

"This analysis foreshadows the 2008 general election campaign for president where religious centrists, nearly a quarter of the student vote, will be the critical swing vote ... and likely the most influential group in American politics for years," according to the survey.

Attracting the elusive youth vote with hip text messages and celebrities is already a serious business among multiple partisan interest groups: 12 million voters ages 18 to 24 went to the polls in the 2004 presidential election, up 25 percent since 2000. But the groups are after larger prey. The young population is a behemoth demographic: There are 71 million Americans who are younger than 30, and they are a target.

"Generation Y is large, increasingly active and up-for-grabs politically," F. Christopher Arterton of George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management said last month after releasing the school's new analysis of innovative voter initiatives aimed at the young and restless. …

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Harvard Study Tells Parties to Court 'Religious Centrists'
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