Friday, 7 November 2008

Voting like a child: Did the youth turn out and vote Obama?

The Americans were voting Tuesday. But which Americans? Who was turning out? All eyes were on young voters in swing states.

There is no doubt that among the young there was, indeed is, an energy and excitement – and, I daresay, an optimism – about this election that other’s just haven’t produced.

Young people were asking each other, “Did you vote yet?” It was the only story in the media that night, but it was also the only story in the coffee houses and the campuses, it was the word on the street and the talk of Twitter. Obamuccinos were outselling McCain Mochas! ‘Happy Obama Day’ and ‘Gobama!’ were the memes of the moment.

The seeds planted in 2000 were coming home to roost: there has been a steady increase in youth turn-out since the high-profile controversy of that election. People don’t want to feel like their uncast vote could have changed an election. But this election’s youth turnout was to show a jump to higher than it’s ever been.

The assumption was always that this would fit nicely with the Obama energy and optimism and reward the attention to the young paid by his campaign. What's easy to forget now is that this was largely guesswork. Polls are conducted on landlines. The 30% of under-thirties that don’t have their own home telephone cannot be polled.

However, no poll was needed to take note of the young Obama Democrats dancing in the streets of U. South Florida, U. Maryland and U. Penn in celebration. In fact, nearly 7 in 10 voters under the age of thirty had supported Obama. This is the highest share of youth support since the exit polls began recording the age of voters in 1976, and 5 times better than John Kerry's performance with the demographic four years ago.

Since Iowa in January Barack Obama has know he could count on the much talked about youth vote and the data as well as the result suggests he wasn't disappointed. Well done, kids!


Gaina said...

I too am glad to see Dubya out of the White House, and that young people are getting out and voting but I do share the concerns of at least one blogger I read who wonders how much thought they put into the process and how much of the enthusiasm was simply for the unprecedented 'buzz' for this election.

I think politics should be a compulsory subject in schools personally, so that first time voters who often vote the way of their parents because they don't know any better (I was the same the first time I voted) understand exactly what they are doing and why.

Annie said...

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