TIME magazine’s cover story (“The Year of the Youth Vote”, Jan. 31, 2008) describes how Obama’s candidacy has been buoyed by the strength his support among under 30-year olds. This youth movement, what the article calls “Barack the Vote” propelled his victories in Iowa and South Carolina and strong finishes in Nevada and NH. Barack won Iowa among those under age 25 by a 4:1 margin. In New Hampshire, he won the youth vote 3 to 1; in Nevada, his youth totals doubled Hillary’s and in Michigan he got some 50,000 “Uncommitted” protest votes by youth under 30 since Hillary was the only name listed on the ballot.
Author David Von Drehle describes how this is ushering in a youthquake of increased voter turnout. “While enthusiastic Democrats of all ages produced a 90% increase in turnout for the first caucuses, the number of young voters was up half again as much: 135%….The youngest slice — the under-25 set, typically among the most elusive voters in all of politics — gave Obama a net gain of some 17,000 votes. He won by just under 20,000. The excitement that created — a “tidal wave,” in the words of Bill Clinton — nearly drowned the hopes of the former President’s wife. But Hillary Clinton answered with her own organizational prowess, whipping up huge numbers of working-class, female and older Democrats.”
Polling by TIME supported the attraction of youth to both politics and Obama. “Nearly three-quarters of the [TIME survey] respondents said they feel the country is headed down the wrong track, with majorities expressing worries about jobs, affordable health care and the war in Iraq. Their interest in the election exceeds their interest in celebrity news or sports — 7 of 10 said they are paying attention to the race. Obama is the only candidate in either party who is viewed favorably by a majority of young people, and he has half again as much support as his nearest competitor, Democrat or Republican.” The poll showed that 72% of 18-29 year olds are paying attention to the campaign, way above the 13% and 42% who were paying attention in 2000 and 2004.
And the article talked about how Obama courted the youth vote starting in Iowa: Barack in Iowa treated high schoolers like VIPs, meeting with them in small backstage sessions after local appearances. [Iowans can vote in the Caucuses at age 17 if they will be 18 by the general election.]
One shocker in the story was that 52% of voters found Hillary Clinton inspirational (are they watching the same programmed candidate as me?), only a shade behind Obama’s 53% and far surpassing any of the Republican candidates.
The article claims (although without much support) that Facebook is having more of an influence in 2008 than Meetup had in 2004 (with the Howard Dean campaign). It is true that Facebook has larger market share and more frequent page views, and offers the advantage that it is generally physically rooted at universities, making it stronger than social networks that are less grounded in face-to-face relationships. But it is a stretch to jump from more frequent page views and easier tools to refresh content to greater political impact without better data to support this.
Read the article here.