Since the general election in 1998, youth voters (18-34) in New Hampshire have been more active than their peers around the country. In fact, according to a recent study by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), the youth turnout in New Hampshire reached an impressive 43% percent in 2008.
University of New Hampshire Political Science Professor Dante Scala tracks voting behavior, and has been watching the role young voters in New Hampshire, especially young conservatives, will play in the primary. Ike Sriskandarajah interviewed Professor Dante Scala in New Hampshire.
Professor Dante Scala: When I started teaching back in 2000, if you were young and conservative and a bit rebellious, you were probably looking at John McCain. He was seen back then as this maverick Republican who wanted to fight the establishment and so forth. Now, 12 years later, John McCain is supporting Mitt Romney who is an establishment figure, so if you’re young and conservative and rebellious, you’re likely now looking at Ron Paul as your candidate. It’s rather stunning that as clearly the oldest candidate (and he looks the oldest of the candidates), again and again [Ron Paul] appeals to the youngest voters. The younger you are in New Hampshire, if you’re going to vote in the Republican primaries, the more likely you are to vote for Ron Paul, but people Ron Paul’s own age are probably least likely.
My sense from college students, [is that] their libertarianism does cross over to social issues and that’s especially true with the drug war, and that’s especially true with legalization of drugs. [For example] you find…younger evangelicals much less likely to be doctrinaire and opposed to say, gay marriage, as opposed to their parents and grandparents. For young people, being conservative today is more about liberty.
Q: Is there anything else that you think is especially interesting…that young conservatives are looking for in your research?
DS: My overall sense is that young people are looking for… A much more bare bones type of conservatism. It doesn’t seem to be mixed up a lot with social conservatism. It doesn’t seem to be mixed up with national security issues. It’s more about libertarianism and creating some space for themselves, some liberty for themselves at home.
This story was originally published on TurnstyleNews.com on January 9, 2012.