Groups See Environment as Key to Getting Youth Vote

With the coming presidential election expected to be squeaky tight, a host of groups are looking for an advantage in the youth vote, and many think the environment is just the issue to stir up excitement. “[T]he amount of interest we’re seeing [on college campuses] is comparable to the best we’ve ever seen,” says Joshua Feldmark of the Center for Environmental Citizenship. The environment consistently ranks higher on the list of concerns for youth than for any other demographic, and they respond particularly well to positive messages like the shift to renewable energy. Still, efforts to tap the youth vote rarely pan out. In 2000, only 37 percent of citizens 18 to 25 years old voted, compared to 64 percent of those over 25. Some researchers pooh-pooh the idea that young potential voters care deeply about the environment: “For many of them, this just means they personally don’t leave garbage on the ground,” says Peter Levine, a demographic researcher at the University of Maryland. Still, in an almost evenly divided electorate, young folks in swing states can expect to receive a great deal of attention this year from enviro groups.