News Analysis: U.S. politicians woo "Under 30" votes

08:40, May 25, 2011      

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By Mark Weisenmiller,

Voters who are 30 years old or younger are becoming the target audience for U.S. politicians and community organizing activists who are already beginning the attempt to win and influence elections in 2012.

The most relevant of these many referenda will be the 2012 presidential election. President Barack Obama's re-election team-- headquartered in his adopted city and state of Chicago, Illinois-- has a host of ideas and programs geared towards procuring as many votes from the "under 30" sector of the electorate.

From selling shirts that have facsimiles of Obama's face and the words "Made in the USA" on the front, and a reproduction of the President's long form birth certificate on the back--a sly reference to those people who still do not believe that Obama was born in Hawaii, to a reliance on communicating via the social networks of Facebook and Twitter--the Chicago office has been and is busy.

"Young people have an interesting mix of attitudes. They are skeptical of government but not hostile to it. They are action oriented. They tend to like candidates who seem to be action oriented. They like Obama, but it would be way too early to say whether they like him enough to turn out and vote on election day, " noted Karlyn Bowman, Senior Fellow of the American Enterprise Institute.

"According to national exit polls conducted by the National Election Pool, Obama received 66 percent of the votes of those under 30, compared with 32 percent for the (Republican Presidential candidate John McCain). That marked a big change from the previous (Presidential) election in 2004, when (Democratic Presidential Candidate John) Kerry got 54 percent of the vote of those under 30, compared with 45 percent for (incumbent President George W.) Bush," said Carroll Doherty, Associate Director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

In 2008, over 22 million people ages 30 or younger voted. In that same year, 55 percent of the 15 million Americans who voted for the first time in their lives were between the ages of 18 to 24.

Republicans are doing their best to try to counter the fact that many of the "under 30" electorate tend to vote Democratic. The Republicans have increased their efforts to communicate via the social network and they have also hosted more town hall meetings for the "under 30" electorate than in the past.

The Democrats and President Obama's re-election team have attempted to counter these moves by the Republicans by having Obama recently make more appearances at high school and college campuses.

In May, Obama gave a commencement speech at Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis, Tennessee. Twelve days later, he did so at Florida's Miami Dade College.

At this latter speech, the President told the more than 3,000 graduates that he supported programs that are for students who are illegal immigrants to eventually become naturalized American citizens.

Doherty stated that "Jobs are definitely a major concern for young people, and those in older age groups, but in April, 65 percent of those under 30 said their household finances were affected 'a lot' by gas prices compared with 43 percent who said jobs."

The most notable social action organization in the U.S. that works with voters "under 30" is known as Rock The Vote.

Twenty-one years old, Rock The Vote was "started by music industry executives and artists who didn't want their work to be censored, and they knew their young fans would be outraged if they learned that politicians wanted to tell them what they could or could not listen to. Our first campaign, 'Censorship is Un- American,' was formed in 1990, and we've fought for young voters ever since," explained Heather Smith, President of Rock The Vote.

The year 2011 is the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution' s 26th Amendment, which legally gave all 18 year old people the right to vote. The long legal process for the amendment to passed was eagerly followed by then President Richard M. Nixon.

The Republican President Nixon thought that by giving his support to the 26th Amendment that this would help to stop the then young and large in number "Baby Boomer generation" from voting for Democrats instead of Republicans.

During the 1990's, however, a public perception arose that Rock The Vote favored Democratic political candidates than those from the Republican Party. Smith was quick to quash that notion.

"We're a nonpartisan group. We don't endorse or support any candidate for office or political party. We've actually found in our research that young people don't relate strongly to either political party, and it does not behoove us to take a side...This demographic is looking for authenticity, and it's more about being a trusted source for information for young people so they can make up their own minds and shape their own future," Smith said.

One of Rock The Vote's most notable projects is "Democracy Class." Aimed at high school juniors and seniors, it explains to them how to register to vote.

Knowing that these teenagers have much interest in the arts and culture of the U.S., Rock The Vote has had popular actors (Darren Criss and Kat Graham, stars of "Glee" and "Vampire Diaries," respectively), athletes (National Football League linebacker Shawne Merriman), and singers (the hip hop duo known as The New Boyz, and rapper Asher Roth) come into these "Democracy Class" seminars and help to teach the classes.

Voters in the U.S. who are 30 or younger tend to communicate primarily by the social networks Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. In late April, President Obama held a open forum on Facebook, in which he answered questions via Facebook. Conversely, when Republican political operatives had their opposition to some of Obama's comments on his Facebook forum, the first choice of communications to send them out was the social network.

"The Obama (2008 Presidential) campaign was very far sighted in terms of communicating with young people and other groups by the latest technology, and I assume they are looking very carefully at how young people get their news, and trying to reach them on their own wave length/technology," opined Bowman.

Source: Xinhua
 
 
     
 
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