President Obama Targets Youth Voters in Campaign Kickoff
by Nicole Gorny | Syracuse UniversityImage courtesy of Flickr, user craigtax.
President Barack Obama kicked off his official re-election campaign with rallies at Ohio State University and Virginia Commonwealth University on Saturday.
The venues – college campuses in battleground states – emphasize the importance of young voters in swing states for the upcoming presidential election.
The millennial generation, aged 18 to 29, had a great influence in Obama’s election in 2008, according to The Daily Beast; millennials represented nearly one out of every six votes in that election.
However, political activity among the millennial generation has decreased since 2008. The number of millenials registered to vote dropped from 73 percent to 64 percent between 2008 and 2012. Of these, 47 percent say they will definitely vote in the 2012 election, compared to 64 percent in 2008.
“In 2008, he was able to tap into that and successfully activate a group of people who don’t always get involved in campaigns,” said David Cary, communications director of the Young Democrats at VCU. “That helped him win.”
Many analysts predict that the youth vote will again prove influential in 2012, according to the Wall Street Journal. Because the 2012 election is expected to be closer than the 2008 election, analysts predict that votes from counties with high college populations will be essential in winning critical swing states.
Cary, who is a senior at VCU, said the excitement at the rally and the number of people who came to see Obama speak were comparable to 2008. The nearby ‘Obama for America’ office, he said, was packed with volunteers prior to the rally; volunteers were promised a floor seat at the rally.
In terms of the rallies’ effects, Cary said encouraging youth voters to volunteer for campaigns is just as important as encouraging youth voters to choose Obama in November.
“Much, if not most, of the work is done by high school and college kids,” he said. “We have the energy, the enthusiasm, and the time, especially now that it’s summer.”
Dan Lowes, a freshman at Oberlin University in battleground state Ohio, also said he thought Obama’s rallies would have greater significance in recruiting campaign volunteers than in gaining votes. He said he believed college students are more politically active in terms of campaign involvement than the general public.
“I think Obama visiting college campuses may be more of an investment in future volunteers than an attempt to secure votes from students,” he said. “By focusing on college campuses, I think Obama is trying to encourage college students who already support him to volunteer with Democratic campaigns this year.”
In addition, by campaigning at college campuses, Obama demonstrates his value in the country’s youth, said Michael Flannagan, a sophomore and communications director of the College Democrats at OSU.
“President Obama thinks we’re important enough that he kicked off his campaign at our campus at The Ohio State University,” he said. “He cares about us. He cares about college students…He understands that we are going to be the leaders in a few years.”
In spite of contrary statistics, there has been a lot of excitement and commitment among youth voters at OSU, Flannagan added. Obama’s rally attracted thousands of people, even in competition with Cinco de Mayo, the nearby Kentucky Derby, and a 5K race on campus.
This enthusiasm is reflected in Emily Sandoval, a freshman at the University of Colorado-Boulder, who waited from 3:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. to hear President Obama speak about college affordability at her school two weeks ago. Sandoval said she plans to volunteer with Obama’s campaign this summer.
“He won our support four years ago, and our support is a big factor in his reelection,” she said. “If he can inspire young people to get out and vote for him again, he’s got a great chance of winning in November.”Nicole Gorny is a NGJ College Reporter and a freshman newspaper and online journalism and Spanish double major at Syracuse University. She also spends much of her time working on campus publications, including the Daily Orange and 360 Degrees.