If one thing is clear about the outcome of the 2008 race for the White House,
it’s that both tickets—for the Democrats, it’s Barack Obama, and for the
Republicans, it’s Sarah Palin—have someone who represents a changing of
the guard, so to speak. Both are in their 40s, and both ARE ENGAGING YOUNG
VOTERS LIKE NO OTHER CANDIDATE HAS BEFORE.
“Young voters are the ‘whatever gen- By Daryl C. Hannah
eration,’” says Cliff Zukin, professor of
public policy and political science at Rutgers University in New Jersey.
“Skin and ethnicity and gender matter far less to them than to any other
generation. Having a young African-American candidate will appeal to
young people. Also, having a woman [will appeal].”
There’s no denying that having a woman and a biracial man running
for the two top leadership slots has significantly contributed to the
increase in political interest among voters between the ages of 18 and
29. However, technology has overwhelmingly changed what was once
a sport of stump speeches and pestering phone calls from automated
recordings into a battle of who can get to the youth first and, more
importantly, who can keep them.
For the first time in history, 46 percent of Americans have used the
Internet, e-mail or text messages to get information about a presidential
campaign, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project. A
whopping 35 percent of Americans, two-thirds of whom are 18 to 29,
say they have watched online political videos, nearly three times what
the organization reported in 2004.
“Technology, specifically the Internet, has become a very important
tool,” says Zukin. “Candidates are using it to move information very
quickly and because it’s important to young voters.”
John McCain and Barack Obama both have turned to the web (and
cell phones) to reach out to young voters. When Obama first announced
Sen. Joe Biden as his vice-presidential running mate, he didn’t wait to
stand before a crowd. Instead, he sent text messages to supporters and
media members who signed up on his web site to receive the alert. And
when McCain wanted to share with Americans his views on the housing
crisis, he posted a video on You Tube.
“Four years ago, campaigning was much more traditional,” says Zukin.
“Young people text message and young people watch You Tube. Using
But that’s not all. Both camps have set up Facebook and MySpace
pages to court young social networkers. A week after the Democratic
National Convention, Obama had more than 1. 6 million supporters on
Facebook and nearly 21,000 friends on MySpace. The day after Palin’s
rousing speech at the Republican National Convention, she claimed
close to 12,000 fans on Facebook and 1,776 MySpace friends. And
while political watchdogs say there is no certainty how these “friends”