News / USA

Obama Seeks to Mobilize Young Voters

President Barack Obama speaks at George Washington University in Washington, 12 Oct. 2010.
President Barack Obama speaks at George Washington University in Washington, 12 Oct. 2010.

Multimedia

TEXT SIZE - +
Cindy Saine

U.S. President Barack Obama has held several big rallies on college campuses to try to rekindle the enthusiasm he generated among young people during his bid for the White House two years ago. 

Voters under the age of 30 went to the polls in record numbers in 2008, with about two-thirds of them voting for then-Democratic candidate Barack Obama.

Zach Howell is President of the College Republican National Committee.  He remembers rough times for Republicans looking for votes on college campuses two years ago. "It was not a good thing to be a Republican on campus in those days.  It was about the most uncool, taboo thing you could be on campus," Howell says, "So you know, a lot of young conservatives kind of went into hiding, so to speak, for a little while there in 2008.  This year, it is completely different.  They are out there working hard.  They are proudly identifying as conservatives, as Republicans."

With public opinion polls showing Democrats likely to lose seats in the House of Representatives and perhaps the Senate, President Obama is reaching out to young people, asking them to vote for Democratic candidates in congressional and gubernatiorial races across the country on November 2.

Speaking recently to some 35,000 people at Ohio State University, Mr. Obama acknowledged that running for the White House was more glamorous than governing.

"And now we are not just advocating change.  We're not just calling for change.  We're doing the hard work of change - we're grinding it out.  Sometimes it's frustrating," Mr. Obama said. "We're delivering change inch by inch, day by day.  It's not easy.  Believe me, I know it's not easy."

The president called on young people to recapture the enthusiasm they had for the electoral process in 2008, and to keep working for change.

Heather Smith is Executive Director of Rock the Vote, a non-partisan organization that promotes youth voter registration and political participation.  She says many young people are skeptical of the president's attention ahead of next month's midterm elections. "The initial reaction was a little bit of, you know, 'Where have you been?  We thought we were in this together.  We came out; we worked hard; we went to the polls like you told us to, we are waiting for this leadership," Smith said. "Where have you been?'"

Smith says that despite such skepticism, young people want leadership.  She says that explains the turnout of tens of thousands of young people at recent rallies by the president on college campuses.

But a recent public opinion survey by the Pew Research Center shows that 27 percent of young Democrats say they are giving much thought to the elections.  The number for young Republicans focused on the vote is 39 percent.

A recent Associated Press-mtvU poll shows that 44 percent of college students approve of the job Mr. Obama is doing as president.  That is a 16 percentage point decline from May of last year.

Republican student leader Zach Howell says unemployment  is the top issue for young voters.

"It is all about the economy.  That is everything to them.  I mean, 20 percent of college graduates are unable to find work right now," Howell says, "So young people are concerned about their futures; they are not as confident as most generations in the past have been able to be.  And they want to see policies put in place that enable them to live out their dreams and they are not seeing that out of this president and this Congress."

Smith agrees that young people care about jobs and their futures.  She adds that there are specific reasons why young people tend to vote less frequently than other Americans.

"They are new to the process and that means that for the majority of them, they need to register to vote for the first time," Smith says, "There are nine million people who have turned 18 since the 2008 election.  They all need to be registered to vote.  And yet, we don't have an infrastructure in place to make that easy and accessible to young people."

Smith is calling for more civics education in schools and new procedures to make it easier to register to vote.  She says the number of people under the age of 30 in the United States is so large that only a two percent increase in voter turnout could determine which major political party - the Democrats or the Republicans - will control one or both houses of Congress.

Howell says there is a widespread misconception that most young people tend to vote for Democratic Party candidates.

"From a historical perspective it is not true.  [Ronald] Reagan won the youth vote; George H. W. Bush won the youth vote; Bill Clinton carried it pretty heavily, but then it went back to George W. Bush in 2000.  So it is split between both parties over the last couple of decades.  And obviously, Obama won it by a heavy margin.  But like I say, we are seeing a very healthy swing back toward the Republican Party," Howell explains.

As November 2 approaches, both parties are hoping to inspire young voters to turn out in force for their candidates.

You May Like

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid