Presidental hopefuls court youth vote
February 8, 2007
As political particiaption of college students grows, they may be of increased importance in the 2008 election.
“Presidential candidates are certainly paying more attention to college students,” Government Professor John McGlennon said. “They have historically relied on students as volunteers, but they are now seen as a good target for votes.”
According to the United States Census Bureau in 2006, 48.8 percent of those aged 18-24 registered, and 32.4 percent voted.
McGlennon said that key issues such as foreign policy in Iraq, student loans and enviornmental concerns are all things that students care about and have led to more youth political participation.
Tom Vilsack, former Democratic governor of Iowa, is using YouTube, Facebook and MySpace to reach out to young voters. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has an extensive Facebook account that includes his plans for 2008 and links to media appearances. There are almost 3,000 posts on Obama’s Facebook wall and hundreds of comments on the nine notes he has posted.
Obama’s most recent note demonstrates that he believes in the importance of communicating to young voters.
“Many of you have asked what else you can do to help, and I appreciate that,” the note reads. “For starters, you can talk to your neighbors and friends. You can call your mom or dad. You can ask your Facebook friends to add their name as a supporter…But most of all, you can keep speaking out and standing up for the issues that matter to you and your family.”
The impact of college students could be tremendous if the support is concentrated on a particular candidate, but it will probably be split along partisan and ideological lines.
“Some candidates have targeted young voters strongly or have a particular appeal because of potential to bring something new and different,” McGlennon said.
“A few of them are Obama, who recently held a rally at George Mason, and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), who has the potential to be the first woman president,” he added. “Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has appeal among younger voters because of his reputation for straight talk. Former Sen. John Edwards has tried to incorporate technology like podcasts and blogging.”
Presidential hopeful, Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), a Republican senator and presidential hopeful, will be speaking at the College’s Charter Day Ceremony Feb. 10.
The senator will receive an honorary degree at 10 a.m., and tickets are free in advance for students.
“He’s going to be an interesting person to watch,” McGlennon said. “Though Republican, he is an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq. His speech will be interesting if he raises the issue of the war because it suggests he sees it as a winning campaign issue in the Republican Party.”