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Young Voters Rank Education and the Economy as Top Priorities

With a growing deficit and steady unemployment levels, it’s no surprise that young voters (ages 18-29) list the economy as a top issue this election season. Many of these young people will cast their first Presidential vote come Nov. 6 and both the Republicans and Democrats are hoping for their support.

According to researchers and analysts at the Pew Research Center, in the last three general elections — 2004, 2006 and 2008 — young voters have given the Democratic Party a majority of their votes and constitute the party’s most supportive age group. While 66 percent of young voters supported Barack Obama in 2008, is that same deciding demographic equally as motivated and inspired in 2012? What is the GOP doing to engage young voters? What are the most important issues facing generations X and Y? Are they hopeful for the future? Are they confident in the political system?

These questions are part of the PBS NewsHour’s Vote 2012: Listen to Me campaign. As part of the national effort, PBS NewsHour Extra enlisted students at 25 journalism and political programs across the country to go out and record their peers and members of the local communities talking about the issues that matter most in this election season.

Devan Lewis, a junior at Jackson State University, said the economy is his top concern. “I would like to be able to get a job with my [journalism] degree,” he worried. Arizona State University senior Mugo Odigwe sounded discouraged that “no one wants to come together to solve the issues.” Joella Vaughn, a sophomore at University of Mississippi, hopes “there are young politicians out there who want to make [our political system] better.”

Kristin Gilger, Associate Dean of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University commented about the collaboration stating, “The connection has encouraged our students to think about public broadcasting as a source of quality information and encouraged them to join the public dialogue about important social, political and cultural issues.”

Participating universities include:

As we continue reporting from across the nation, stay tuned for updates and highlights of some of the best work produced by these stellar students. In the meantime, follow us on Tumblr and Twitter.

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