First-year students more interested in politics

College first-year students are more politically engaged now than they have been in the last 40 years, a UCLA study has found. The study found 35 percent of first-year students frequently discussed politics last year, which is higher than the previous record of 33 percent in 1968 âÄî a year when college students across the country marched for the Civil Rights Movement and against the Vietnam War. It also found that 31 percent of first years considered themselves liberal, which is a 35-year high and found about 21 percent of students identify themselves as conservatives, which is down from 23 percent in 2007. Throughout history, young people engage themselves in politics when there are issues that affect them and there are people to mobilize them, University of Minnesota political science professor Steven Rosenstone said. This is exactly what happened with President Barack ObamaâÄôs campaign, Rosenstone said. âÄúThe Obama campaign did an extraordinary job of connecting with and mobilizing young people,âÄù Rosenstone said. But the real test will be if first years continue to be interested in politics or if the November elections created a spike in interest that will die off. Rosenstone started college in 1969 and during his first spring semester protests against the invasion of Cambodia shut down college campuses early. But when Rosenstone returned to school the next fall, buzz over the invasion had died off along with much of the political engagement. âÄúIt was a time of heightened politics and deep engagement, but it was passing,âÄù Rosenstone said. First-year physics student Colin Clement did some door knocking for Obama last November and said even though the election is over heâÄôs still very interested in politics. âÄúItâÄôs the American way of life,âÄù Clement said. âÄúItâÄôs our duty to vote, so we should always be informed.âÄù Clement said many first years were not interested in politics before this year, because George W. Bush was not a president to whom they could relate. The UCLA study found that only 28 percent of freshman found it important to stay up to date with political affairs in 2000 âÄî the percentage was an all-time low. Clement said he hopes students maintain their interest in politics, but wouldnâÄôt be surprised if many didnâÄôt. âÄúPolitics arenâÄôt always that interesting,âÄù Clement said. âÄúItâÄôs natural for kids to not really care.âÄù First-year early childhood education student Kelsey Cassidy said she is interested in national politics, but sheâÄôs not engaged in local politics because she doesnâÄôt hear much about them. Cassidy supported Obama because she is well-educated about the changes he is going to make, she said. Even though young people entered the political arena recently, Cassidy said she thinks students will âÄústick with it.âÄù But many first-year students are engaging in politics for the wrong reasons, said Abdul-Rahman Magba-Kamara, chairman of College Republicans at the University. He said the reason why many students are involved in politics and support Obama is not because they are fully aware of political issues or policies, but rather because Obama has the âÄúcoolness factor.âÄù