Will the millenials actually turn out to vote?

October 13, 2008

Lots of organizations and experts are saying, this is the year. The year young voters are finally going to care, to give a damn, to vote in large numbers, to cast off the labels of “apathetic” and “oblivious” that they’ve been branded with practically since they were given the vote in 1971.

The campaign of Barack Obama (which, even if he doesn’t win, will surely achieve a legendary status like that of Howard Dean’s campaign of 2003/04) has played no small part in the increased interest young people have been paying to the election this year. The combination of Barack’s ability to inspire and motivate crowds, and his campaign’s brilliant user-driven, bottom-up, 21st-century grassroots strategy, has given millions of young people a window into politics that they never saw — or just never took — before.
“They’ve married the incredibly powerful online community they built with real on-the-ground field operations. We’ve never seen anything like this before in American political history,” says Simon Rosenberg, president of the Democratic think tank NDN.

“They have taken the bottom up campaign and absolutely perfected it,” said Joe Trippi, the man who orchestrated the rise of Howard Dean largely through use of the internet.
All this would make you think young voters  (18-24) are going to turn out in record numbers this year. After all, polls show young voters adore Obama: they prefer him to McCain in a 61-30 margin. But, it looks like the Obama campaign still can’t count on the youth vote just yet:

When asked to rank their interest in the Nov. 4 election, just 49% said they were “very interested.” By comparison, 70% of voters of all age groups said they were “very interested,” according to a separate Journal/NBC News national poll taken a week ago. Moreover, 54% of the new voters said they would definitely vote Nov. 4.

So they love Obama, but only roughly half of these new voters plan to vote? What exactly is holding them back, I wonder? The amount of work America has been doing to reach out to Millenial voters has been almost to the point of ridiculousness. Voter registration is now easier than ever…so easy you can “do it while you’re pooping” according to Sarah Silverman. Early voting is enabling millions of people to vote who are too busy to vote on election day (I still don’t get how people are too busy to do their civic duty, but that’s a different story) — 27 million Americans are expected to vote early this year. Groups like Rock the Vote are spending extensive amounts of time and energy on getting the attention of young people and getting them to vote. The Obama campaign, and its Students for Barack Obama, have spent millions on registering voters and plans to get them to the polls. Hundreds of celebrities have started or supported campaigns to get people engaged and get them to vote. They’ve reached out to us on the turf we’re most comfortable with, too — social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, and Youtube all have adopted some kind of voter registration promotion, application, tool, or whatever else, to try to grab the attention of these Millennial voters.

If large numbers of 18-24 year olds were to vote, they have the potential to swing the election — yet they’ve never realized their full potential. America is recognizing this, and has spent thousands of hours and billions of dollars trying to get 18-24 year olds to vote. So what, then, is still holding them back from actually voting?



  1. There’s only one thing that is holding back the millennials from voting, and that is the word “Lazy.”

    I know that millennials care. We watch the debates, watch SNL to get our weekly dose of Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin, and we are constantly blogging, youtubing, and trying to get the word out. But when it comes down to it, are we just too lazy to take action?

    I hope not, but this is the one thing that I think stands in the way of the millennial vote. I feel that our blogging community will take action, but what about the million others who don’t read blogs, and think that “Web 2.0” means Facebook.

    The word has gotten out. Now we just need to get the millennials off of their ass and to the voting booth!

    Jun Loayza

  2. Totally true. More millenials are paying attention to this election than any other before, which is pretty impressive in and of itself. They’re definitely more informed and aware, but who knows if that will translate to action. There’s a ton of youth GOTV organizations though working like crazy to get young people’s attention (I was in one of those GOTV orgs. in 2004!) so I really hope that they can set a turnout record again…

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