After President Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign brought record-breaking numbers of young voters to the polls, many pundits thought this year would see far less enthusiasm.
But over a thousand students waited outside the Ward 1 New Haven Public Library polling station for over an hour in near-freezing temperatures yesterday, casting 1,346 votes in the competitive race between former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Obama, who was re-elected. The president won 82 percent of the votes cast in Ward 1, a New Haven voting district composed almost entirely of Old Campus and eight residential colleges. Former Ward 1 Co-Chair Amalia Skilton ’13 said the number of votes cast by young voters this year may be higher than the number cast in the 2008 election.
“Our generation is extremely liberal compared to the past,” said Cole Florey ’14, who voted for Obama yesterday. “Since a lot of these policies are going to affect us the most, youth are excited to vote.”
With a sluggish economy and many of Obama’s 2008 campaign promises unfulfilled, support for the Democrats among young voters nationally waned in this year’s election, with CBS News’ early exit poll showing Obama leading by a margin of 56 percent to 40 percent, a 10 percent drop from his victory over Republican Senator John McCain in 2008. A study of exit polls by the Pew Research Center in that year concluded that two-thirds of youth voters cast their ballot for Obama, and pundits credited Obama’s victory in Virginia, North Carolina and Indiana to high turnout among those under age 30.
Of 30 students interviewed after voting at the library, 26 said they voted for Obama. The most commonly cited issue that decided whom the voters supported was women’s rights, followed by healthcare, the economy and gay marriage.
While four of the five voters who cited women’s issues as a key priority voted for Obama, Eduardo Andino ’13 said the Republican ticket aligned better with his views. Though he acknowledged his vote might not change the election’s outcome in Connecticut, Andino said it was important to voice his opinion.
Some of the students took to the polls more out of fear for a Republican victory than out of support for Obama’s policies.
Tess McNulty ’13, an Obama supporter, said she cast her vote for Obama so that Romney could not “deconstruct the progress that we’ve made,” particularly on the issue of healthcare.
Several Yale students entered the voting booth for the first time yesterday. Ruth Nakaar ’14, a first-time voter, said many people wrongly blamed the president for not accomplishing enough with his first term when Republicans often blocked him in Congress.
“Obama has not been given a fair chance these four years,” Nakaar said. “I would hate for him to become a one-term president.”
Michael Zhao ’15, also a first-time voter, aligned with the president, even though change had not been as sweeping as Obama promised in 2008.
While her father supports Romney, Rosa Nguyen ’15 voted for Obama, hoping high turnout among the Democratic-leaning youth voters would give Obama four more years in office.
Three of the 30 students interviewed voted for the Republican ticket.
Ona McConnell ’14 said she supported Obama in 2008, but she was disappointed with his leadership and voted for Romney yesterday. McConnell said she believed Romney had positioned himself as more conservative during the campaign, but she said she believed he would be more liberal as president, as he had been when he passed healthcare legislation as Massachusetts governor.
“I think at the end of the day, if he were to become president, he would not stand by [conservative] values as much as he does now,” she said. “I hope Mitt is lying about some of his opinions.”
One of the students turned to a third-party candidate.
Andy Ellis ’15, who said the most important issue he considered when voting was whether he would have a job when he graduated, voted for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson on Tuesday to voice his dissatisfaction with both candidates and the two-party system. Johnson received 22 votes in Ward 1.
Voter turnout in Ward 1 this year nearly doubled compared to the 2010 midterm election.