US election: Youthful enthusiasm critical for Obama in early votes

By David Usborne

Never mind November. For the nearly 30,000 students enrolled at Iowa State University, the chance to choose between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama comes now. They will be encouraged to cast their ballots at early voting stations dotted across the campus until Sunday.

A strong turnout among young Americans is especially important for Obama, who was helped to victory in 2008 by a wave of enthusiasm among first-time voters. It is why he was here for a rally in late August and why he has visited other major campuses across the country since.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll yesterday showed Obama leads Romney by 59 per cent to 31 per cent among early voters. In 2008 about one in three voters cast a ballot before election day. Voting is already underway in at least 40 states.

Romney's officials accept that winning the youth vote is beyond their reach but they intend to make inroads on the assumption that the near-worship Obama elicited last time around will not be repeated.

There is little evidence of the students at Iowa State being disengaged.

The calendar has been strewn with student debates, opinion articles have appeared in the campus paper.

Annie Hartnett, 20, an economics and political science student who is also a leader of the campus Democrats, isn't fazed by the recent tightening of the polls, especially a Pew poll showing support swinging suddenly to Romney. "We are almost never polled. I have never been polled. If you put the youth vote into that Pew poll, those numbers would be much different."

Latest polls

REUTERS/Ipsos poll

Barack Obama 46 per cent
Mitt Romney 45 per cent

Rasmussen tracking poll

Obama 47 per cent
Romney 49 per cent

Gallup tracking poll

Obama 47 per cent
Romney 49 per cent

IBD/TIPP Tracking

Obama 47 per cent
Romney 46 per cent

- Independent

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