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Abraham Mulberry is trying to form a club for young Democrats on the Elmhurst College campus in Illinois.
Martha Irvine/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Date published: 9/28/2012
AP National Writer
ELMHURST, Ill.--What a difference four years can make.
In 2008, college campuses were filled with campaign posters and political rallies--and frenzy.
Remember "Obamamania?" This year, it's difficult to find a college student who's truly excited about the presidential race.
"Politics has gone back to that thing you don't want to bring up," says Abraham Mulberry. He's a freshman at Elmhurst College in suburban Chicago who's trying to start a club for young Democrats.
Last election, his campus had an active Students for Obama chapter, organized well before the election. But this time, there's nary a campaign placard, for either President Barack Obama or Republican candidate Mitt Romney. "I wouldn't say the election is the No. 1 hot-button issue here," Mulberry says, disappointedly.
Granted, you don't see many signs of campaign enthusiasm in the neighborhoods that surround his campus, or elsewhere for that matter. But it's telling that, on many college campuses across the country--where, in 2008, then-candidate Obama's messages of "hope" and "change" easily took hold--the mood is markedly more subdued.
"Certainly, some [young people] have stopped believing," says Molly Andolina, a political scientist at DePaul University in Chicago who tracks young voters. "Maybe that's inevitable. For structural reasons, it's easier to offer hope and change as a candidate, than as a president."
Excitement was so high, it really had nowhere to go but down, she says. This time, there's also no obvious chance to make history, as there was when students helped elect the country's first African-American president. "For young voters, it was like going to Woodstock in 1968," says John Della Volpe, the polling director at Harvard University's Institute of Politics.
Now like a lot of Americans, they're more worried about the economy and finding jobs. Voter ID laws in some states, which ban or restrict the use of student IDs at the polls, also are causing confusion on campuses--at a time when students are already weary and cynical about political bickering in Washington.
Young people are leaning strongly Democratic, as they traditionally do, and favor Obama by a wide margin--though some pollsters say the youngest new voters are showing signs that they may buck that trend.
An Associated Press-GfK poll conducted earlier this month found that 61 percent of registered voters in the 18-to-29 bracket support the president, compared with 30 percent for Romney.