Young Voters Can’t Be Ignored

Mandingo Buchongo

Last month, President Barack Obama held a town hall hosted by Facebook and moderated by the founder Mark Zuckerberg. The audience was mostly Facebook employees, but they also took questions from Facebook members online. This was no doubt an effort by the president to reconnect with young voters.  Young voters who were such an important and vital component during the historic 2008 presidential election. In previous campaigns, young people were described as the long lost demographic. In a TIME magazine article, voter turnout expert Michael McDonald at George Mason University said, “Conventional wisdom has a name for candidates who rely on the youth vote: loser.” But in 2008, youth engagement in the political campaign and voting process proved to be an invaluable factor in the Presidential election.
Voters under the age of 30 represented 18 percent of the total vote in 2008, compared with 17 percent in 2004. The election proved that young people care about the electoral process and when engaged by the campaigns they will register to vote and vote. These younger voices bring different points of view, and they expand the public dialogue.  In the recent Congressional budget debate, a myriad of issues affecting youth were discussed from Planned Parenthood funding to collective bargaining rights for educators. The long ignored youth now have a platform to be heard and taken seriously. 

A government’s legitimacy is always dependent upon the people it serves. This is a notion often forgotten. Negligence that affects particular populaces brings about cynicism as a byproduct. The Obama ’08 campaign expanded the electorate and sought out the opinions and engagement of young voters.  If this rapport is strengthened and nurtured by the President for the 2012 election it will undoubtedly continue to create unmatchable results.
According to a nationwide 2010 survey by Rock the Vote, 96 percent of voters between 18-29 are concerned with the unemployment rate in the US just like all voters. And while 56 percent are more cynical than they were in 2008, they still believe that their votes count. No surprise younger voters are also concerned with technology, jobs, and education.
The youth vote has become substantial to candidates who want to win. Candidates are injecting trendy phrasings and buzz words into their campaign speeches as a way to connect with their newfound electorate. Pandering may be demeaning but these candidates recognize the power that the demographic holds—clearly “conventional wisdom” was not conventional. In an age of instant communication young people are following the news and their interests —and winning candidates would be foolish to ignore young voters again.
Mandingo Buchongo
A 25-year old Morehouse College Graduate

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