After a low youth voter turnout in 2010, projections for the youth vote in 2012 seemed to be less than that of the momentous turnout in 2008. Democrats made it a point to make the youth vote become an important factor in the 2008 election, but as many students, saw soon after inauguration day, change didn’t come as easily as we had expected. To many voters’ surprise, the youth vote was higher in 2012 than it was in 2008.
Paul Ryan’s dig on fading Obama posters may have been a bit extreme, but it did shed light on the election’s youth voter’s perspective, and the voter climate overall. Would the next four years be worth the another Obama term? Would change for our generation be financially sustainable?
This election was far different from the 2008 election that promised some generic change. It wasn’t about who had the spiffiest graphics or best campaign t-shirts. It was about our future, about how much we would have to pay in loans after college, about what jobs we could find, and about what our futures would shape into.
In our realization of disillusionment, we armed ourselves with knowledge instead of immediately changing sides. The vote wasn’t as one sided—60% voted for Obama and 36% for Romney in 2012, versus 66% for Obama and 31%for McCain in 2008. What a surprise, considering that the minority vote shifts to Democrats, and minorities make up the youth vote more than any other age demographic.
Though it may have only been 1% higher than the last election, the increase in youth voter turnout in 2012 was unexpected, at least for me. With less media appearances and less vigor towards chasing the youth vote, both candidates failed to capture the spirit that we saw in 2008. For Romney, at least, it seemed that he could care less about our 19% of total voters who might be able to elect him into the White House. How, exactly, can you break down the Five Point Plan for someone studying liberal arts at Sarah Lawrence? How do you explain that this student would be much better off financially if they put a stopper to their dreams by transferring to a trade school or a community college? It is easier, as the Obama campaign discovered, to appeal to a mass of students by bringing student loans up as a main spoke of the campaign, appealing to college students and recent graduates alike.
Of course, as I said before, fewer students voted for Obama this election season. Overall, however, students still (overwhelmingly) voted him into office.
This election wasn’t filled with as many national media appearances for the POTUS. However, he made the time to seek the youth vote on networks that appealed to the youth demographic. Another strategic way he sought the undecided voter (which makes up a large percentage of the youth vote, as we saw in the 6% Republican shift from 2008 to 2012), he often popped up in local media near swing voting sites, like when Obama called in to local radio stations. Romney focused on older, decided voters and avoided entertainment appearances.
The last four years hasn’t been all catchy t-shirt phrases and idealistic change. However, the POTUS appealed to the youth vote when Romney rarely even gave it a shot. This recent upsurge in student voters may not be because of a resurgence in youth activism, but rather, because of an eager desire to secure our futures. Despite popular opinion, we don’t vote because it’s a trend. We vote for the betterment of our lives.