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

US Border Patrol Union Accused of Taking Sides on Immigration

Report alleges agents leaking info to immigration opponents, appearing at their private events; Center for Immigration Studies director defends agents' actions More

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Reporting from Somali capital for past decade, Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal has been working at one of Mogadishu's leading radio stations covering parliament More

Video Rights Monitor: Hate Groups' Use of Internet to Inflame, Recruit Growing

Wiesenthal Center's Abraham Cooper says extremists have become skilled at celebrating violence, ideology on Web 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.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs