Young voters' interest fizzles By Ron French / The Detroit News John M. Galloway / Special to The Detroit News ANN ARBOR Campaigning for the youth vote has its own peculiar challenges for Megan Wilbur. Prowling the dormitory hallways of the University of Michigan, Wilbur has been known to discuss Howard Deans attributes to half-naked guys in towels. Often, she shouts her get out the vote message over the beeps and gurgles of video games. But the biggest challenge facing the 21-year-old senior from Ann Arbor is one faced by a generation of political activists finding a way to motivate young voters. Hopes for a youth voter boom in 2004 are fading with the campaign of former Democratic front-runner Howard Dean. The legions of young voters inspired by his Internet-focused campaign are dropping out of the process rather than switch their allegiance to another candidate, according to Michigan pollsters. Thats bad news for Dean in Saturdays Michigan Democratic Caucus, but even worse news for Democrats in general, who would like to reignite that enthusiasm for the fall election. For 30 years, young Americans have been a sleeping giant of a voting bloc, 30 million people who could swing an election if they voted at the same rate as their parents. Americans 18-25 go to the ballot box less than any other age group, with less than a third voting for president in 2000. That same year, 51 percent of all voting-age Americans voted. Like thousands of young people, Wilbur and best friend Anna Miklojcik became involved in the Dean campaign months ago through the Internet. But after Dean finished a disappointing third in the Iowa caucus, interest dropped. Youth participation in the Iowa caucus quadrupled between 2000 and 2004, with its share of the overall caucus participants growing from 9 percent to 17 percent. A week later, after Deans loss in Iowa, youth participation in the New Hampshire primary was up, but just from 13 percent of the voters to 14 percent. The Iowa caucus and the speech (Deans infamous scream in Iowa) made people more wary of Dean, Wilbur said. After Dean lost again in New Hampshire, young voter interest in the election spiraled downward in Michigan. The percentage of likely voters in Saturdays Michigan caucus younger than 40 has dropped by more than a third since the Iowa caucus, according to East Lansing-based pollster Steve Mitchell, who conducts polls for The Detroit News. Separate polls by Epic-MRA in Lansing found similar results. The interest among younger voters has clearly waned, Mitchell said. It could be the fact that a lot of them were involved in the process with Howard Dean, and when he collapsed, instead of continuing with the process with another candidate, theyve decided not to vote at all. link Howard Dean did say alot of his support will not automatically follow the Democratic nominee. A third party canidate could pick up these votes if it interested the youth demographic targeted by Dean.