Written for May 2008 issue of Massapequa High School’s award-winning newspaper, The Chief. Position at time: Features editior
One glance of the crowd at a rally for Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama and it becomes obvious who a vast number of young people are entrusting their votes with come November. College t-shirt bearing supporters are seen in large numbers at rallies for the Illinois Senator, contrary to the crowds of the other Democratic nomination contender New York Sen. Hillary Clinton which have a strong base in the older demographic.
The question on many people’s lips seems to be why are so many of the under 30 voters drawn to Senator Obama? While it is impossible to pinpoint what exactly about Obama attracts younger voters, his personality most assuredly has something to do with it.
Heather Smith, directors of Young Voters Strategies is quoted in The New York Times Politics Blog, The Caucus, “Oftentimes, just because young people are new to the [election] process, they’re talked to like they’re stupid,” but Obama is different in that he approaches the young people without appearing condescending, and is “genuine” and “conversational.” The democratic candidate naturally interacts with the young voters (Obama is often seen playing basketball will young people), a quality that is said to be lacked by Senator Clinton. However this factor is often attributed to the larger generation gap between Clinton and the youth vote, with Obama at 46 years old, and Clinton at 60.
The Illinois Senator also takes advantage of the internet to reach young voters. His “Yes We Can” speech was mixed into a song with appearances by celebrities including Will.I.Am, John Legend, Kate Walsh and Scarlett Johansson singing and speaking over the actual speech. The music video is popular on YouTube and has created more buzz for Barack Obama since it is such a unique concept and because Obama’s message is more easily accessible to the young voters than ever before.
Another effect of the generation gap lies in the race issue. Younger generations are statistically more tolerant and less likely to see race as an issue, whereas older voters have a harder time seeing past the fact that Obama is African-American.
Yet what grabs the attention of the young voters the most is Barack Obama’s inspiring words of hope and change. While the older generation may feel that Obama is making empty promises, the words instill optimism in young voters about what the future holds. Between the war, the economy, and the current state of America, there is little for the youth to remain optimistic about, and the charismatic and compelling speeches that the Obama delivers restore faith in the country and opens up debate for what could be of the United States.