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U.S.: First-Time Voters Say They're Enthusiastic About Election

A recent survey conducted by New York's Pace University concludes that first-time presidential voters are pessimistic about the direction of the country, but enthusiastic about the vote itself. The Pace-Poll survey does not distinguish between U.S. and overseas-born first-time voters, but in the past, new citizens have been among those most likely to cast votes.

New York, 29 October 2004 (RFE/RL) -- As the final countdown to next week's U.S. presidential election looms, 83 percent of first-time voters, according to the survey, say they will definitely vote.

This is much higher than the general turnout for a U.S. presidential elections, which sometimes does not exceed half of registered voters. The survey suggests this time people feel highly motivated to vote.

Rafaelo Kazakov, an accomplished photographer, came from Bulgaria to the United States in 1991. He said he is planning to vote on 2 November, and explains why.

"In the last four years, we have seen a country that had a budget surplus go again into trillions [of dollars] more deficit," Kazakov said. "We've seen tax cuts for the rich, to which I don't belong. We have seen basic interest in a government of secrecy and a government for the few. And obviously these are not things that are good for the majority of people."

Many say the closeness of the last election in 2000 -- which President George W. Bush narrowly won, but only after the intervention of the U.S. Supreme Court -- made them realize how important their votes are.

Milena Georgieva is a child psychologist. She came to the United States in 1991. Milena said that right now America is polarized between the Republican and the Democratic parties and she expects this to continue after the elections.

Milena said that some far-reaching decisions of the Bush administration in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001 had a profound effect on the life of ordinary citizens. That's why, she said, it is important to vote.

"I am a very new American, and although I do consider myself American, I still think I [have] the mentality of an immigrant," Georgieva said. "I have a lot of loyalties to my [former] country, Bulgaria, and, of course, I have a lot of gratitude for my new country, America. So it is very complex for me to think of myself solely as American. And I think that a lot that's happening -- I still, although I am in it, I still do have the outlook of somebody who's from the outside."

The new national identity, she said, comes with new responsibilities.

"[A] superpower...[has] more responsibilities," Georgieva said. "There is this saying that with great power comes great responsibility..., and that's why [as an American] I feel it's very important to really cast my vote and have a voice in what's going to happen in these elections."

Jonathan Trichter is the Director of the Pace-Poll of 600 first-time voters. He said the poll reflects genuine enthusiasm and a general trust in the system.
A new national identity comes with new responsibilities.

"We asked new voters whether or not they thought their vote would be counted fairly and accurately," Trichter said. "In 2000, there was a lot of controversy over whether or not the votes were counted accurately in Florida as well as elsewhere. What we found was a lot of trust among these new voters in the electoral process despite what happened in 2000. We should see the consequences of this enthusiasm and faith at the ballot box on 2 November in that a lot of these new registrants will turn out to vote. America's new voters may turn out to be America's most enthusiastic voters."

A recent Gallup Poll found that 12 percent of registered voters say this will be the first time they have voted in a presidential election. Gallup found that registered first-time voters generally prefer Democratic Senator John Kerry to the incumbent Bush by a margin of about 50 percent to 35 percent. First-time voters come predominantly from the 18- to 29-year age group.