Chasing the Youth Vote

Posted by Speakeasy News > Tuesday 06 September 2016 > In the News

In the U.S. presidential elections,  all the candidates are chasing the youth vote. The Democrats most of all. So Barack Obama  has made a short video to encourage young people to sign up to vote. It would make a great classroom activity.

The youth vote is a difficult demographic. Young people are more likely than their elders to change addresses and renew their registration. As a group they are sceptical about party politics, while being capable of devotion and action to single-issue groups like Occupy or the green movement.

For parties the youth vote is a potential El Dorado. It's not a question of persuading seasoned voters to change allegiance (which is hard work). Young people who don't normally vote can bestow "bonus" votes on a party that persuades them to first register then turn out on polling day.

More than 50 million Millennials (18-35-year-olds) are registered to vote, about 31% of the electorate.

 Young people are generally assumed to be more left-leaning than their elders, and so more likely to vote Democrat. But record numbers of young people signed up for the Republican primaries this year to vote for Donald Trump.

The Democratic Party primaries saw massive crowds of young supporters.  But they were backing Bernie Sanders, the left-wing independent who was promising free university education for all and redistribution of wealth towards the poorest groups in society.  Young people are definitely in that bracket,  having an average debt of more than $37,000 when they leave higher education. Sanders has been campaigning for years to more than double the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Now Hillary Clinton needs to persuade those Sanders supporters to get out and vote for her. In the 2012 election, 45% of 18-29 year olds voted whereas overall turnout was 62%. She needs to motivate them to go to the polling booths. Bernie Sanders refused to stop his primaries campaign once it was clear that Clinton would win the nomination, because he wanted to influence the Democratic Party platform for the election, voted on at the party's convention in Philadelphia in July. Key policies of  his have been adopted in the the platform, such as the $15 minimum wage and free university tuition for low-income families in their own state's public universities.

Will that be enough to get the Millennials out to vote? Or will Barack Obama's video help? You can find our suggestions for using the video by following the link below.


Webpicks Useful websites and online tools for classroom use
> Barack Obama Register to Vote Video