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Youth to lead drop in U.S. voter turnout in 2012: study

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Voter turnout will likely drop substantially in the 2012 U.S. presidential election, due in part to decreased interest among young people who flocked to the polls in 2008 to help elect President Barack Obama.

A report this week by the Center for the Study of the American Electorate at American University predicted that the drop in turnout among young people will likely contribute to a decline in overall voter turnout in the November election after near record numbers in the last two presidential elections.

"The election is likely to offer a minimum of hope and a maximum of televised invective - likely between the perception of a failed president and a party of failed ideas magnified by an unprecedented level of scurrilous and vitriolic and often ad hominem television advertising," wrote Curtis Gans, director of the center.

"Against this backdrop, it is hard to envision anything other than a substantial decline in turnout."

Gans said the 2008 election had the highest turnout since 1960 due in part to a sharp increase in voting by college-educated youth and record numbers of African-Americans going to the polls.

But he said the 2012 election would be different amid reduced enthusiasm for all of the candidates.

"(B)ecause Obama the president did not fulfill the hope invested in Obama the candidate, there has been an enormous sense of disappointment among those young who had been previously politically active and the current crop of college-resident young do not have the same compelling motivation to engage as those who preceded them," wrote Gans.

"For these and other deeper systemic reasons, it is virtually certain that there will be a substantial drop-off in the level of youth participation and voting in 2012," he said.

(Reporting By Deborah Charles; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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