Obama and the Youth Vote

Adam Nagourney wrote recently about Obama and the youth vote, saying:

The truth of the matter is that every four years – as sure as a sunset – stories appear about a surge of interest among younger voters in presidential politics, typically predicting a jump in turn-out that will benefit one campaign or another. It rarely turns out to be true: the percentage of voters under 30 in the total electorate was basically unchanged between 2000 and 2004– 17 percent, according to surveys of voters leaving the polls.

Let’s look at the Iowa caucuses.  From 2000 to 2004, the percentage of Democratic Iowa caucus-goers under 30 nearly doubled, going from 9% to 17%.  The leap was the largest among all age brackets and reflected increased turnout at the caucuses overall.

With the explosion of social networking sites, thousands of students have joined candidate-themed groups.  And although just joining a group doesn’t guarantee voting, there’s heightened awareness of the election which will increase voter participation.   There’s a potential feeling of exclusion as well, if all your friends are either going to caucus night or attending a rally (events publicized on sites like Facebook) and you’re left out.  YouTube is also a handy conduit for campaigns’ messages, with over 3.5 million views of Obama videos.  None of these websites were mainstream in 2004, and all of them are means for increased the election’s visibility.

There has been an evolution in politics in the last four years.  Howard Dean first exposed the fundraising power of the Internet, a capability Obama has harnessed to great financial benefits.  Now, young people are using the Internet’s communication skills and networking ability to support campaigns.  Hopefully, they’ll go out and vote as a result.


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