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Getting out the youth vote.

Yesterday’s post about the unlikely alliance of independent presidential candidate John Anderson and independent musician Todd Rundgren spurred two friends of mine to bouts of nostalgia.

One was a seven-year-old girl in Virginia in the fall of 1980; the other was a six-year-old boy in Toledo, Ohio. They both were drawn to the Anderson campaign — the girl because he looked grandfatherly; the boy for reasons he could not explain. When Anderson lost on Election Day, the boy wept.

That made me remember my own elementary school days, and the mock elections that would be held in class in Presidential years.

I wonder, if you added up voting results in the nation’s classrooms, how many classrooms would the Anderson-Lucey ticket have carried? And how would that have differed from the actual precinct-by-precinct national results, as voted by grown-ups?

Sure, a lot of schoolkids vote the way they hear their parents talking. Some even ask them for advice.

But I like to imagine there was a block of American children in 1980 who would have been drawn to the independent candidate for novelty’s sake, or because he looked like their grandpa, or because they got talked into supporting him by “cooler” kids, or because they’d seen him on TV and he lodged in their minds the way random things sometimes do.

With that in mind, I bet there were a couple of classrooms somewhere in this grand, sweeping, star-spangled, dream-hungry nation of ours where John Anderson got elected president.

(A belated shout-out here to Mrs. Gaydenson’s kids in Room 4B of Dacron Elementary. You were visionaries, all of you. Except Cindy and Alex. And Christy — she was out sick.)

Seems to me the nation’s kid vote would provide an interesting counterpoint to the adult vote.

I wonder if anyone — like one of those educational magazines for schoolchildren — has ever tried to round up an actual total of classrooms won per candidate. I am guessing not, as it would be an awful lot of work for something that would only be of interest to flakes and historical moss-nibblers like myself.

For what it’s worth, I was also seven on Election Day 1980 and do not recall having an attachment to any of the candidates. It would have been just like me to go for Anderson, though.

Perhaps it still is.


5 responses »

  1. I think that “Weekly Reader” had an election poll of schoolchildren every four years. I also think that “Weekly Reader” recently stopped publication.

  2. OK – here you, straight from Wikipedia:

    One of the best-known events in the magazine’s history is its quadrennial “Weekly Reader Student Presidential Election Poll”. The poll is an educational exercise in which Weekly Reader-subscribing teachers conduct mock elections to find their students’ preference for president. Teachers tabulate the results, then send them to Weekly Reader. (Since the 2000, the surveys have been developed with, and tabulated by, the Zogby International polling organization). This survey of students in grades K through 12 began in 1956, when readers chose Dwight Eisenhower over Adlai Stevenson.

    The poll has now been conducted 14 times, most recently in 2008, and the students have voted for the person who became president 13 out of 14 times.[15] The exception was in 1992, when George H.W. Bush garnered more votes than Bill Clinton.[16] Third-party candidate Ross Perot, whose presence on the national ballot was important during the actual election, was not on the Weekly Reader ballot that year.

    • Wow! Thank you for your scholarship. I *thought* there might have been a publication that did this.
      I’m gonna have to see if I can get my hands on their 1980 results.

      That said, I wonder if Weekly Reader tabulated total vote counts, or number of classrooms won — I assume total vote count.
      For my own perverse purposes, I’m slightly more interested in the classroom-by-classroom breakdown. I’m sure Anderson got swamped in total vote count, but were there any individual sites where he carried the day?
      More research is clearly called for on my part.

  3. I think that “Weekly Reader” used popular vote, not an electoral college of classrooms.

    • I briefly tried a web search of old newspapers last night — thinking that some local papers must have covered the classroom-election angle, and maybe one of them stumbled upon an Anderson stronghold.
      Didn’t find anything, but I haven’t exhausted the potential searches.


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