Political pundits and students say North Carolina's candidates for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Republican Sen. Jesse Helms are neglecting issues relevant to voters aged 18 to 30.
The campaigns of Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican Elizabeth Dole focus on issues such as Social Security and prescription drugs while avoiding hot-button issues important to younger voters like drug legalization and abortion rights.
Experts say the candidates' key issues are geared toward older voters and that the issues concerning voters younger than 30 are not properly addressed.
A recent survey by The Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University found older voters intending to vote in the Nov. 5 election outnumbered voters younger than 30 more than 2-1.
The survey projects that 20 years from now only 8 percent of total voters who come out to the polls will be younger than 30, compared to the more than 30 percent who will be adults 65 and older.
On Nov. 5, 23 percent of all 25-year-olds are expected to vote, and as little as 19 percent are projected to vote in 2022. In contrast, the 1974 election saw 30 percent of all registered 25-year-olds voting in the general election.
"The data shows a declining rate in young voters," said Mollyann Brodie, vice president of public opinion and media relations at the Kaiser Foundation.
One implication for young people is that politicians spend their time and energy on people who put them in office, Brodie said. "It's hard to imagine they have the issues concerning young voters at the top of their mind."
She added the survey shows younger people feel differently than older voters on many issues. But she said the bottom line is younger voters do not have the voter turnout to be an important force.