Younger Voters Alter Scope of Campaigning

    Voter turnout for young people has been historically
    inconsistent, as older voters are the traditional targets of political
    campaigns. However, this year’s election marks a significant change in
    candidates’ strategies, as the growing popularity of Internet campaigning has
    diverted more attention to a younger demographic.

    Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) significant win in Iowa,
    largely due to a strong base of young voters, called attention to the
    frequently overlooked voting group.

    It is evident from the candidates’ homepages that they are
    increasingly vying for support from young voters. Every major presidential
    candidate, with the exception of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), has links to his
    or her respective Facebook, MySpace and YouTube site.

    The current administration’s waning popularity has had a
    record-setting, adverse effect on Republican candidates. A survey compiled by
    the Pew Research
    Center
    shows a 15-percent lead in
    Democratic Party identification among 20-year-olds, the most significant
    Democratic leaning for this age group since the Nixon administration.

    Obama’s significant lead could be signified by his 272,000
    supporters on Facebook ­— more than triple that of Sen. Hillary Clinton
    (D-N.Y.).

    Texas Rep. Ron Paul takes the gold for Republicans, with
    nearly 78,000 supporters — who have become recognizably vocal — while former
    Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney takes a distant second at 34,000 supporters.

    Turnout figures bear particular significance this year
    because Democrats have outnumbered Republicans by roughly 40 percent in primary
    polling locations, according to a recent Time magazine report.

    Clinton, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and Obama
    have similar stances on the issues, and polls show that young voters, like
    their older counterparts, prioritize the economy as most important. Hence the
    uneven distribution of support for a single candidate is more difficult to
    explain, according to Gary Jacobson, a UCSD political science professor
    and American politics expert.

    “Young, educated voters like Obama’s style and his standing
    for something other than politics as usual,” Jacobson said.

    He said candidates with a strong base of young supporters, however,
    should be weary because young voters are notorious for low turnout in general
    elections and do not tend to vote as a bloc.

    “By the general election, though, I think they will be
    divided along partisan lines, just like their elders,” Jacobson said.

    Similar trends are apparent in the Republican race.

    Supporters of Paul, many of whom are young voters, denounce
    the practices of the mainstream media, claiming Paul has been excluded from
    news coverage.

    However, at an on-campus speaking engagement last week,
    Newsweek Managing Editor Evan Thomas defended the media.

    Thomas said the coverage of nonviable candidates takes away
    from the decision-making process when the stage is too crowded.

    Mainly older members of the San Diego
    community attended the speech, with only a handful of students scattered
    throughout the room.

    Jacobson said situations such as the turnout at Thomas’
    speech are relatively common, and that high levels of young voter turnout are
    often anomalous.

    Iowa was a
    caucus state where activists tend to predominate,” Jacobson said. “When broader
    electorates are involved, it is harder for any particular age group to stand
    out.”

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