By Jamie Coughlin
As campaign news filled the airwaves last fall, 18-year-old Sara Poe was busy in her dorm room at Truman State University writing poetry and listening to music or working on homework. What she wasn’t doing was watching or reading the news about the impending presidential election.
Poe didn’t vote on Nov. 6, and she has no qualms about it.
“I think it’s a choice,” Poe said. Poe was in class on Election Day and said that although election talk was difficult to avoid among friends and classmates at the small college in Kirksville, Mo., it didn’t persuade her to go to the polls.
The Medill School of Journalism surveyed voters and nonvoters in November after the election in which President Barack Obama won a second term. Poe is one of 16 percent of the nonvoters surveyed who chose not to vote because they don’t have any interest in politics or the government. In the poll, they were dubbed the “Tuned Out” group.
Tuned Outs tend to be young and female and are more likely to be students. When asked about basic political or electoral events, they often answer that they don’t know. They have a very low awareness of current events and don’t watch or read the news, but that isn’t by accident, they simply have no interest.
Poe said she watches or reads “very little” news and doesn’t know what the big issues in the country are right now. She said the war in Afghanistan is likely the top national priority garnering the most media attention. When asked if she is interested in any social issues, Poe said, “I don’t know.”
This sort of disengaged mentality permeates the lives of Tuned Outs. They are highly unlikely to be involved in their communities or in civic or volunteer activities. Poe doesn’t participate in any university clubs or groups at Truman State, where she is a freshman.
Tuned Outs feel like it not only does not matter who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, it doesn’t matter who runs for election. They don’t see politics as having any direct impact on their lives. In fact, they feel their vote won’t count so there is no point in voting. “I don’t want to [vote] because my vote really doesn’t count for anything so I don’t see a point in it,” Poe said. She doesn’t believe in the electoral process and says that unless it is changed, she doesn’t ever plan to vote.