U.S. President Barack Obama is reaching out to young voters, having made midterm campaign stops in a question-and-answer session on several youth-oriented television networks and the social network Twitter. The president is hoping for the same kind of support from young Americans that he aroused two years ago during the 2008 presidential race, when voters under the age of 30 went to the polls in record numbers.
Still, public opinion surveys show that young voters who support the president are much less interested in taking part in this November's midterm Congressional elections. According to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center, only 27 percent of young Democrats say they are giving much thought to the vote. The number for young Republicans is 39 percent.
So just a few weeks before the elections on November 2, the president went to George Washington University in the nation's capital and addressed about 250 young people in a theater and a nationwide television audience. The forum appeared on three national television networks: BET News, with a largely African-American audience; CMT, whose viewers are mainly white and rural; and MTV News, which programs for young viewers.
The president took questions from the audience and from people using the social network Twitter.
Many of the questions focused on issues of concern to people in the United States, questions like these:
"Why should we still support you going forward with your monetary and economic policies, and if the economy does not improve over the next two years, why should we vote you back in? What is your administration planning to do to improve comprehensive primary education and address college affordability? I voted for you in the last elections, based on your alleged commitment to equality for all Americans, gay and straight, and I wanted to know where you stood on 'don't ask, don't tell.' "
And, another from this immigrant:
"I come from Colombia, and I am waiting for my green card, and I have been waiting for it for about three years. My grandmother turned 92, and I am afraid that my green card will not get here in time for me to see her for a last time. "
One audience member asked Mr. Obama about his support for peace efforts in Sudan. The president said a referendum on independence for southern Sudan must be organized within approximately 90 days or risk failure, and his administration is working to meet that goal.
"If you have an outbreak of war between the north and south in Sudan, not only could that erupt in more violence that could to lead to millions of deaths, but solving the problem in Darfur becomes that much more difficult," said President Obama. The president also urged those watching the forum to put pressure on their lawmakers to support diplomatic efforts for peace in Sudan.
The president told one questioner the "don't ask, don't tell policy," which bans homosexuals from serving openly in the U.S. military, will end on his watch. But he said he wants to end the policy through legislation, rather than by court orders. He also defended his efforts to strengthen the slumping U.S. economy, saying his economic stimulus legislation has helped put 3 million Americans to work. Mr. Obama is not the first president to hold a televised question-and-answer session with young people. Then-president Bill Clinton held the first forum of this kind on MTV in 1994.