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

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

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land In French Port

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching 'Fortress Europe' More

Video Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

New Hints That Dark Matter Exists

New evidence from International Space Station hints at existence of dark matter and dark energy 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.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid