Rousing the College Vote ; an Interview with Student Political Leaders

By Chelsea Waugaman Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, August 4, 2005 | Go to article overview

Rousing the College Vote ; an Interview with Student Political Leaders


Chelsea Waugaman Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


Twenty million voters between the ages of 18 and 29 turned out for the national election in 2004. That represents about 18 percent of all votes cast, but the potential youth vote is much greater. Some 40.7 million people are in that demographic - twice the number of 66- to 77-year-olds. This prospect is not wasted on politicians and student activists.

With this in mind, the Monitor recently interviewed the head of the College Democrats of America, Grant Woodard, and the leader of the College Republican National Committee, Paul Gourley. This summer began a new term of office for both young men.

Mr. Woodard, a senior majoring in history at Grinnell College in Stratford, Iowa, ran unopposed for his second term. The CDA has chapters in 1,267 colleges across the United States and 75,000 members.

Mr. Gourley, a 2005 graduate of the University of South Dakota, won a close election against California College Republican Chairman Michael Davidson. Gourley will lead more than 200,000 members at 1,300 colleges.

Though at opposite ends of the political spectrum, both men agree that engaging college students is key to invigorating their respective parties. They both share concrete plans to do so.

Some excerpts from telephone interviews:

When you look over the political landscape on college campuses today, what do you see?

Grant Woodard (D): The landscape is very active and very energized. Between 2000 and 2004 it was reported that college students were twice as likely to pay attention to news. At our 2005 convention, we had 700 to 800 students who traveled to D.C. This shows that we're energized, still active, and ready for the fight. There's a new long-term approach to everything, and engaging the youth is key. We are the future.

Paul Gourley (R): Issues are always evolving, and some stay the same. College Republicans work toward maintaining free markets; they want to see strong families, keep taxes low, and protect Second Amendment rights. Because the main mission of our organization is to support President Bush's agenda, judicial nominations, and Social Security reform are on the minds of College Republicans right now.

Is there a 'typical' student attitude toward politics? How has that attitude changed?

Woodard: Everyone used to say that college students were apathetic. In my own experience, college students want to talk about politics either because of a concern for the presidential election or because of an awareness of current global issues. …

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