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

Afghan Government: Taliban Leader Mullah Omar Died in 2013

President Ashraf Ghani's office confirms reclusive Taliban leader died in 2013, but Taliban itself claim Omar is still alive More

Erdogan in China Amid Tensions on Uighurs, Missile System

Turkey's president has criticized China's heavy-handed policies toward Uighurs in violence-plagued Xinjiang region, where China says it is fighting foreign-backed separatists More

Critics: China’s President Using Law to Tighten Grip on Power

President Xi, who has stressed importance of 'rule of law' and law-based governance, has exerted increasingly tighter grip over society since coming to office 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.
Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponentsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
July 28, 2015 9:53 PM
A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video Special Olympics Athletes Meet International Friends

The Special Olympics are underway in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries participating in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to take part in an international competition. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that for athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs