Poll after poll has shown it. Barack Obama is winning the youth vote, and winning it decisively. Iowa answered the question whether this enthusiasm would reflect at the polls, against the wishes of many pundits who ignore data that conclusively shows youth voter turnout ROSE in 2004 and 2006. The same held true in New Hampshire.
So, why Obama? Here are my non-scientific answers.
1) Youth want Change
For us under 28, we’ve basically lived through two Presidencies, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. The latter is without question one of the worst Presidencies in American History, the former is remembered for bitter Partisanship and general lack of accomplishments. Besides his management of the economy and the budget, what did Clinton accomplish? More specifically, what did he accomplish that helped young people in any way?
In the 2008 field, we have Hillary Clinton, who personifies the “i’m owed it” candidacy, the same type of candidacy that doomed Bob Dole and, to a lesser extent, John Kerry. John Edwards sounds as much a pandering lawyer, trying to be all things to all people, and his attempts to embody change are weakened since he did run in 2004, and he was on the ticket with John Kerry, the ultimate elder statesmen.
We don’t like waiting in line behind people who believe they are “owed” responsibility. That’s not how things work in today’s world
2) Experience: An Ineffective Argument
Experience alone isn’t ineffective. Running on experience is. Our world has changed. We understand that experience is important, but we also realize that it can only take you so far, but that creativity, diversity, and ability to adapt matter much, much more. Waiting in line for the person ahead of you, either in age or stature, to move on so you can move up, are the ways of the past. We’ve grown up hearing stories of how brilliant entrepreneurs turned the world upside down with innovative, brilliant ideas, ideas and innovations that never would have occurred with the “old guard.” In this context, experience matters little to the youth voters. We value ideas, we value action.
3) We hate Pandering
Going on MTV and cussing, as John Kerry did in 2004, does not make you more appealing to young voters. Trying to force your stances onto young voters (“Young people should care about social security because…”) also will fall on empty ears. Young voters are as sophisticated, if not more sophisticated, than voters of any age, we care about a wide range of issues. Micro targeting won’t work with us. The same Washington consultants who try to target specific messages to African Americans, Latinos, Seniors, and Jews can’t figure out how to target the youth. It’s because we are all of the above, and more.
4) Our Media is All Media
I can’t remember the last time I watched the evening news. One fascinating things about youth is that we aren’t any more likely to use Blogs than other age groups, but we are more likely to get our information from a wide variety of sources. For me, that can be here, at Daily Kos, or on BBC News Online. But it also can be links my friend send me over IM, the scrolling headlines on my RSS feed at my GMAIL account. Not to bash MTV, but there is no single medium that can be used to reach young voters.
The candidate who will appeal to young voters is a candidate who speaks our language. Not a candidate who speaks to us, about us, or over us, but AS us. Barack Obama speaks the same language of youth everywhere. Hence his dominant finish with young voters in Iowa and New Hampshire.
We are looking for change. The one thing that strikes me when I talked to youth voters in Iowa was who they were supporting. Few wanted Hillary (hence her 4th place finish with young voters). Many, in fact, were between Obama and JOE BIDEN. Why? Look above. In the end, many of these voters choose Obama, and the ones that choose Biden found him unviable and moved to Obama. Biden doesn’t pander, and he speaks straightforward. He never tailored his messages to difference audience. Compare his rhetoric to Obama’s, you might be surprised.