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The Youth Vote September 29, 2008

Posted by Jamie Friedland in Election.
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3 comments

My fellow Young Americans: please vote.

The pundits have repeatedly prophesized the rise of the youth vote during the last few election cycles, but despite significant increases in participation, we have yet to become a game-changer.  Not because we can’t, but rather because we have chosen not to. 

According to the 2006 census, there are 29.5 million potential voters under age 24, and nearly a quarter of the American electorate is under the age of 30.  Yet youth voter turnout has been low over the last few decades, only recently reaching rates nearing 50%. Now, we did see greater participation during the primaries, but the youth vote still lagged well behind the other age groups.  Here on the campus of Duke University, only about 10% of registered students voted (so we’re looking at well under 10% of the student body heading to the polls). 

As a busy, active college student myself, I do not mean to suggest that all students are idle and uninvolved; students are engaged in communities around the country and the world.  Even on the national political scene, many thousands of students are currently working to exercise our collective power.

Groups like College Democrats of America and Young Republicans are thriving, and we are finally seeing presidential campaigns court the youth vote as a major demographic.   Well, we are really just seeing a campaign (singular) court the youth vote – only one of the remaining candidates has given us respect and responsibility in this election.  While I knew this intuitively, I wanted to see if I could quantify or justify my assertion.  This quest led me to some interesting statistics: there are 22 special “coalition” pages on Sen. McCain’s website.  While ‘Bikers,’ ‘Racing Fans,’ and ‘Lawyers’ get their own pages, students do not.  (I know the link is dead, that’s the point.)  Evidently to the McCain campaign we are not a demographic worth the time it takes to write a webpage.  Just to emphasize this point, Lebanese Americans (no offense to them), US citizens who trace their ancestry to a country with a population of under 4.2 million people within their own borders, are apparently of more importance to John McCain than all the students in our country (Lebanese or not).  And that’s utterly absurd.

So if we don’t get a page on McCain’s website, do we appear there at all?  A domain search on johnmccain.com for the word “students” returns just 671 hits.  The same search on barackobama.com returns 437,000 hits.  For those of you keeping score at home, that’s over 650x more hits on Sen. Barack Obama’s site.  And to add insult to injury, some of the first hits on McCain’s site aren’t even about students, they clarify Sarah Palin’s position on teaching creationism in schools (she’s for it and thinks that dinosaurs and humans coexisted 6000 years ago).  Just to give you a few more comparisons, allow me to present more domain search results from the McCain website:

  • “reform” – 6,800 hits
  • “maverick” – 587 hits + 2 more hits for the misspelled “mavrick,” inspired by my favorite sign from the RNC (below)
  • “lipstick” – 358 hits (more than half of the number of hits for “students”)
No well-dressed, wealthy republican adult left behind.

Bush's education legacy: apparently well-dressed, wealthy Republican adults were left behind too. Really, nobody at the RNC saw him or said anything?

But I digress.

Let’s continue to juxtapose McCain’s website with Obama’s.  The disparity in website student emphasis is due, in part, to Students for Barack Obama.  SFBO is the official student wing of the Obama campaign that, with the exception of a handful of Obama for America Youth Vote staff, is entirely student-organized and run.  It has been operating for well over a year now and has hundreds of chapters at universities, colleges, graduate schools, and high schools around the country.  This grassroots student network has been volunteering, canvassing, and registering voters throughout the nation.  On Obama’s website, students can find or start local chapters, ask questions, submit policy suggestions, download organizing materials, peruse student blogs, and even interact with each other other the campaign’s own social network, my.barackobama.com.  In the interest of self-disclosure, I have been and currently am involved with SFBO, but my own [considerable] bias aside, it is quite telling that our group has no counterpart in the McCain campaign.  John McCain has ceded the youth vote to the Democrats.  So let’s take it.

There is far too much at stake in this election to disengage from the process.  We need to realize that our government’s actions affect our lives even if we don’t pay attention.  Presidential elections are about far more than those two candidates.  Just look at the Supreme Court, where two liberal justices are poised to retire from the presently “balanced” bench.  Given the young ages of the conservative justices that Bush appointed and the life-tenures of the court, the next election could well determine the outlook of the Supreme Court for decades to come.  And so much, such as the fate of Roe v. Wade, hangs in that balance. The time for apathy has ended.

Or not:

…but seriously, it has.  New voter registrations are trending heavily in favor of the Democratic Party, and young voters are driving many of those numbers.  But registrations don’t win elections, votes do.  If you are registered to vote, go vote on November 4th.  Tell your friends to vote.  Nag them.  If you aren’t registered to vote yet, register online now, and then vote.  It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s so important.   Plus you get a neat sticker!

 

*UPDATE*

I got bored in class and ran a few more searches.  Enjoy:

  • The word ‘change’ appears 1.43 million times within the barackobama.com domain.  That’s only about 300,000 times fewer than the word ‘the.’  As Sen. Biden would be happy to tell you, that’s certainly not more of the same.
  • “GILF” appears only on Obama’s domain (4 times), but both domains are graced with the term “MILF.”  I find the ‘GILF vacuum’ on McCain’s site ironic given that Republicans are far more likely to consider Gov. Palin a grandmother yet, but that’s a whole different story.
  • “Palin” appears nearly 4x as many times on Obama’s domain than it does on McCain’s…whose base is this woman rallying again? (This almost certainly derives from Obama’s site being much more expansive and the fact that his supporters are more technologically inclined, but it’s still interesting)

Please feel free to comment with any other fun searches you can think of to run.  If you don’t know how to do a domain search, type “[keyword] site:[genericwebsiteURL]” into a google search bar.  

Ex) “hope site:barackobama.com”.

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