"Our loss of trust may be why we have the mentality that the economy would be best with less intervention" says Palermo, a sophomore at St. Olaf College. She plans to vote for Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson.
"Even though politician after politician promises they'll improve the economy, they have failed, and we are going to suffer from it."
Republicans also have seen an opportunity here.
In 2008, Republican pollster Kristen Soltis says she watched disappointedly as her party "really let the youth vote go."
This election, that hasn't been the case. Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan has spent time campaigning on college campuses. George P. Bush, son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, has done the same for the Romney-Ryan ticket in that state.
Soltis also notes that, last summer, during a recall election in Wisconsin, a slight majority of voters in the 18- to 24-year-old age bracket cast a ballot to keep Republican Gov. Scott Walker in office.
"This election is such a huge opportunity for Republicans," says Soltis, who, at age 28, is also a member of the millennial generation.
But it remains to be seen whether Republicans can win over these young voters on social issues, especially when the economy rebounds.
"Either the party will have to persuade more young people or the party will adapt. I don't necessarily know which way that's going to go yet," Soltis says.
Winsett, the DePaul senior, says Republicans would be wise to "shift back to the center" to attract more young people.
Brady Meixell, a freshman at the College of William & Mary in Virginia, agrees.
"People in my age group who would typically be Republicans, and are very fiscally conservative, are disenchanted with the social conservatism of the GOP and don't exactly know where to turn," says Meixell, who's 18 and plans to vote for Obama.
He says Obama has won many students over with college loan reforms and with his health care plan, which allows young people to stay on their parents' insurance into early adulthood.
Meanwhile, 21-year-old Alex Avdakov describes himself as conservative on social issues such as abortion and welfare. But his vote will be driven by what amounts to fiscal conservatism: a concern about government spending.
He plans to vote for Obama because he strongly opposes Romney's plan for military spending, "especially when his entire campaign is centered around reducing the deficit," says Avdakov, a senior at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.
These mixed emotions help explain why this election is generating much less excitement on college campuses than there was in 2008.
"They're not fully committed to Obama. But they're not fully committed to Romney either," says Della Volpe, the pollster from Harvard.
Or perhaps they're not fully committed to the political process as a whole, but are turned off, as many young people note, by partisan bickering and gridlock.
A recent TRU poll found that more young people answered "don't know" or "don't care" when asked if they were liberal, moderate or conservative.
Six months after the 2008 election, 13 percent of teens and twentysomethings gave that answer. In a recent poll, that "don't know/don't' care" number rose to 27 percent for the entire age group — and to 36 percent for teens.
That could be bad news for those hoping to build on the last election's banner youth vote numbers. But Maue, at TRU, doesn't necessarily think it means they're disengaged.
"It may mean they're undecided," she says. "So it could go either way."
Martha Irvine is an AP national writer. She can be reached at mirvine(at)ap.org or via http://twitter.com/irvineap
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