A survey released this weekend suggests “most college students doubt that voting in the presidential election will make major changes in American society,” according to the Associated Press. Students seem to be of the opinion that their votes don’t count in the grand scheme of things. Nothing could be further from the truth.
According to the survey, conducted by the Leon and Sylvia Panetta Institute, 19 percent of the students who participated rate politics as “very relevant” to their lives, while 43 percent said it has no relevance.
Ironically, even though questions asked about President George W. Bush’s war on terrorism and the war in Iraq should suggest otherwise, 35 percent said the presidential election can cause “a lot of change,” down from the 47 percent who said so March 2001.
Three out of four students oppose reviving the military draft, according to AP, and support for the war on terrorism, including the actions in Iraq, has waned from 57 percent in April 2002 to 37 percent.
Former President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff Leon Panetta, who spearheaded the polling efforts, summed the findings by saying, “Somehow the message isn’t getting through.” To call this an understatement would be putting it mildly.
The war in Iraq should especially be an issue, because it is making it apparent just how much power the U.S. president is wielding. Often called a “war of choice” by Bush’s opposition, it is arguable that the president went in with full military might based solely on his own decision. It is debatable if the decision was right or wrong, but that the decision was his should be self-evident.
Apathy about elections of any sort among students is nothing new. The question of who is to blame for this — the students or politicians — has also been an ongoing discussion for years.
But after the close outcome of the presidential election in Florida in 2000 (the upcoming election is shaping up to be close, too), the argument that it is “simply one vote among millions” cannot be made anymore.
In 2000 the disputed number of votes by which Bush won the state was around 600. If two or three USF classes had voted, they alone could have swayed the election. How is that for not being able to make a difference?