DES MOINES, Iowa — On Tuesday night, Valley High School senior Trey Herbert had to decide between attending his school’s football game or voting in the Iowa caucuses.
He chose the caucus.
“There’s a big game today, but I don’t really care about it, so I’m gonna go to (the caucus),” Herbert said.
Herbert was one of 800 students at Valley High School here to attend ‘Rock the Caucus,’ a campaign event hosted in the school’s gymnasium, and one of 18,000 Iowans under the age of 30 to cast a vote in Tuesday’s caucuses, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.
Herbert, who said it was difficult to choose between Rep. Ron Paul (R–Texas) and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, said he thought Paul could better represent young people, but he said he was unsure of what Gingrich had to offer America’s youth.
The uncertainty in candidate alignment appeared to be a common theme among other young voters in Iowa. Paul received 8,800 votes from caucus attendees under age 30, or 48 percent of the youth demographic, according to CIRCLE. One-third of Paul’s total vote came from young people, and he has consistently proven to be the most popular Republican contender among young voters despite being the oldest candidate in the race for the nomination.
At ‘Rock the Caucus,’ Paul received the loudest applause out of the three candidates who spoke — Paul, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R–Minn.) and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
Herbert said the enthusiasm of the audience was part of what drew him to Paul.
“This was nice, just because I’ve got more views on Ron Paul now,” he said.
However, not all of Paul’s young supporters were attracted to him simply as a result of the enthusiasm of their peers.
Drake University sophomore Ben Levine said he got involved in Paul’s campaign several months before Paul began to rise in the polls. For Levine, Paul’s libertarian policy positions were why he supported him.
“Paul stands for something consistently,” Levine said. “I don’t think there’s as much energy for other candidates because it’s hard to get behind somebody who’s going to say anything to get elected, whereas Ron Paul, he has proven time and time again (that) he’s (going to) say whatever he wants.”
Levine, who has been campaigning for Paul for a few months, said he also believes Paul could be viable in the general election.
“I think he could blow Obama out of the water,” he said.
When deciding who to support, Valley High School senior Clara Shoemaker said she seeks candidates that share similar values to her, particularly in regard to religion.
“What I look for is people who have the same beliefs as me,” Shoemaker said. “My faith is really important to me, so I’m not for abortion, and then Republican views (are also important to me.)”
While young voters in Iowa hold varying values and come from a variety of backgrounds, they seemed to hold one principle in common — a belief in the importance of voting among America’s youth.
“I think it’s good just to be responsible and to be involved in the process,” Hall said. “In the last election, we saw what a lot of young people could do in really rallying behind Barack Obama and really, you know, helping him surge to the nomination … so I think that young people have a huge part.”
Levine agreed, adding that the United States is at a critical point in its history, making it critical for young people to get involved if they want a say in where the country goes.
“We’re really at a point where you have two options: You can go down the same path or you can switch gears,” Levine said. “And if students don’t realize that, and they don’t get involved … you’re not (going to) have the same country we have now.”