Duke University professor co-authors book exploring how to get young people to polls

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DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Getting the attention of young voters is consistently one of the toughest hurdles for any political campaign.

“There is a sense out there that the reason is because they’re apathetic or too busy taking selfies,” said Duke University political science professor Dr. Sunshine Hillygus. “And so, they’re not really interested in politics. But, the reality is they are as interested (and) as motivated as older Americans. They just don’t follow through on those motivations.”

Hillygus co-authored a book with John Holbein called “Making Young Voters: Converting Civic Attitudes into Civic Action.” She said part of the problem simply comes down to planning.

“An adult who has a 9-to-5 job, what their day looks like on the first Tuesday of November, that’s probably more predictable than if you’re a college student who has a different schedule every day. Their life is not as scheduled and predictable as older people,” Hillygus said.

So, as active as young adults may be in whichever campaign they choose, they often don’t do what matters most — vote.

Hillygus said the second part of the problem is teaching students, who eventually will be voting age, how the process works. She said it can be done in the classroom without getting political.

“Teachers expressed a lot of hesitation about bringing politics into the classroom, and understandably. But, we have to remember that young people voting, young people registering, is not something that should divide the country,” Hillygus said.

“This is something that should be a goal. And, in fact, was a goal of the founders. So, we really want to emphasize even if you’re not willing to talk about the political issues of the day because of fear of what parents might say that there should be no opposition to increasing youth turnout.”

Hillygus added that it’s also important to remove the hurdle by reversing when they register.

“They say, ‘OK, we’re going to register people to vote in the presidential election year.’ But, in fact, the day after the election would be a terrific time to get people to register to vote,” Hillygus explained.

Will it be enough to get them to show up?

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