Polls and the media have consistently pegged young people as politically apathetic, an image that many would say Princeton students uphold. But with two Princeton alumni – Bill Bradley '65 and Steve Forbes '70 – vying for the presidency, students seem more interested in politics than usual.
That interest just doesn't always translate into activism.
"I don't think that the fact that these guys went to Princeton affects people's opinions of them, but it does affect general interest in the campaign," said Walker Wright '00, who worked on the Bradley campaign in Iowa this summer.
"It is tough to get people mobilized," College Democrats president Courtney Weiner '01 said. However, as the race heats up, both "Students for Gore" and "Students for Bradley" groups are being organized, she explained.
According to Nick Allison '01, an organizer of Students for Bradley, the national Bradley campaign is excited to have a campus group. "They have been pushing very hard," he said of campaign officials.
Tyler Chaise, who is heading campus outreach for the Bradley campaign, gave more credit to students for the formation of the group. "Students are organizing themselves. We are just here to make sure they get all the help they need," he said.
The Students for Gore group is headed by Allison Burmeister '02, who said she is not fearful of the natural inclination of many Princetonians to favor Bradley. Although Bradley's status as an alumnus, a basketball player and a New Jersey resident gives him an edge in this area, Gore has greater appeal nationally, she said.
However, Burmeister noted that "Bradley has definitely made the Gore campaign work harder."
According to College Republicans president Tiffany Madigan '00, some of the group's members are "fervent about lesser-known candidates." However, she explained that Forbes is definitely drawing alumni interest because his ideas are "intellectually stimulating."
There are no campus groups supporting specific Republican candidates yet, Madigan said, and she does not know of any undergraduates working on a GOP campaign.
Despite the growing interest spurred by alumni presence in the race, students have not rallied in support. "There hasn't been that much activity on campus" said Nick Bernthal '02, who worked on the Bradley campaign this summer.
Weiner explained that campus life is not conducive to political activism. "People live in a bubble. You can see it especially around this time. The schedule goes something like eat, sleep, library, eat, sleep."
Justin Kerr '00 worked for the Bradley campaign in Iowa last summer, and said his experience has made him even more aware of campus apathy.
"Before I did this I'd never done anything political. Coming back you realize that no one is involved or even informed," he said. Wright agreed that University students seem to be following the trend of young people being politically apathetic. "In general we're just not that politically active," he said, noting that he was dismayed that more students did not attend the anti-impeachment rally that was held last year in Firestone Plaza. The crowd, he said, was largely made up of town residents and professors. At other schools there would have been more students, Wright said.
Along the same lines, many young people have become disillusioned by politics in the last two years, Bernthal explained. "People in our age demographic are generalized as idealists," he said. "Things like the scandal in Washington tend to disillusion kids a lot."