Editors note: Campaigns are won and lost by how well candidates recruit supporters and then ensure those supporters turn out to vote. This series continues on Mondays through Election Day.
UNC Charlotte senior Robert Mady grew up as a Democrat. Both of his parents are members of the party, and he used to look at many issues as Democrat versus Republican, he said.
That background and his dislike of the selection of Sarah Palin as the GOP vice presidential candidate led Mady to support Barack Obama four years ago.
But in recent years, the 25-year-old said, his views on politics have grown more nuanced something hes noticed among other younger voters.
As hes gotten older, Mady said, hes thinking more carefully about issues and his values and looking at candidates based less on their parties and more on their platforms.
For example, he said, his work at a pharmacy has let him see the benefits and negatives of health care reform. And as a student looking for scholarships, hes paying more attention to candidates positions on federal Pell Grants for students. Hes also interested in topics like gay marriage and international relations.
I am still a Democrat, but Im more informed, says Mady. And when I decide in November, Im going to decide with full knowledge (of the issues).
At this point, Mady says he is leaning toward supporting Obama again over Republican Mitt Romney.
Young voters like Mady have long been a constituent coveted by politicians, though some studies suggest his interest in politics this year may not be typical of some of his peers.
Youth vote key in 2008
Four years ago, about 51 percent of voters between 18 and 29 cast ballots in the presidential election. Thats the third-highest turnout for the age group since the voting age was lowered to 18 four decades ago, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. Two-thirds of young voters supported Obama in 2008.
But a September study by the Pew Research Center said that younger voters appear to be less engaged this time. About 63 percent of registered voters under 30 said they definitely plan to cast a ballot this year. Thats down from 72 percent in 2008.
In addition, 48 percent said theyve given quite a lot of thought to this years election, a decline from 65 percent four years ago, according to the poll.
It is unclear what the polls could mean for the Obama and Romney campaigns, which have both launched efforts to reach out to the under-30 crowd.
In North Carolina, 696,381 of the states 6.5 million registered voters were younger than 26 as of July, the most recent data available. In South Carolina, 122,808 registered voters, out of 2.8 million total, were between the ages of 18 and 24.
The Romney campaign launched online and campus-based initiatives to reach out to younger voters. A section on the campaign website also is devoted to Young Americans for Romney.
The Obama campaign also has worked to recruit college-age and other young adults.
Nicholas Cuthbertson, a UNC Charlotte student and Obama campaign volunteer, says he disagreed that students are less engaged this year.
If you look around campus and see what people are doing, theyre talking about the debates and setting up organizations to support their party, he said.
Mady, who is from Albemarle, says he thinks the campaigns are right to make young voters a priority.
From 18 to 40, we go through so much change in our lives, he said. People get married, people have children, people buy their first house, people travel ... If you look at all of the platform issues, we are the ones who are impacted first.
Mady also is working to get other young voters involved. Hes president of his universitys Asian Student Association, which held a voter drive on campus. Twenty students filled out voter forms during the three-hour event, but Mady says many more said they were already registered.
Mady, who is Laotian, says he is particularly interested in encouraging more students of Asian backgrounds to vote. His student group has launched a social media campaign and plans to offer rides to students on Election Day to help encourage them to get involved.
And, he says, he wants to encourage people to be as informed about the issues as they can be.
I hope people really listen to the platforms, Mady says. Really listen and be empathetic to what theyre saying. Database editor Gavin Off and news researcher Maria David contributed.