Students show subdued attitudes about election

by Richard Lazarus | 10/13/00 5:00am

The frenzied tone of last year's primaries has given way to a quieter, less enthusiastic campus attitude toward the upcoming general election, perhaps a reflection of the presidential candidates themselves.

While last year at this time students were packing into events that included such contenders as Senator John McCain, and were eagerly following the media corps that arrived with the debates held at Dartmouth, students now seem to be focusing their attention more on the daily news and less on large campus-wide events.

Although participation in organized campaign activities seems to be lower now, students are not necessarily apathetic toward the presidential election. In fact, various student leaders say they feel student participation is still high in initiatives like voter registration and speeches by visiting political figures.

When asked about participation now compared with the primaries last year, Kathleen Reeder '03, president of the College Republicans, said that it is difficult to compare the events.

Emmett Hogan '01, head of Dartmouth's Bush campaign, agreed, but noted that while Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson drew 90 audience members, the McCain speech last winter brought in hundreds. "McCain is the name people recognize," he said.

Nonetheless, key groups are still attracting some participants, especially from the freshman class.

"'04s are the most surprising element. I'd say most of the people who have gotten in touch with us have been '04s," Hogan said. "They realize only once in their four years will they get to be involved in a general election."

Many other student leaders had the same impression of the entering class. For example, at one recent Nader organizational meeting, half of the eight participants were '04s.

Interviews with students revealed that most still plan to vote, many watched the recent debates, at least occasionally read about the elections and talked about politics with friends.

The lack of interest after the primaries is "normal," according to Acting Director of the Rockefeller Center Lynn Mather. "During summer people don't pay attention." Most major campaigns anticipate an increase in activity as the election approaches.

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