Say what you will about Barack Obama. Perhaps you feel that he is too young and inexperienced to be a successful President of the United States or that his particular brand of “change” is business as usual. These are pretty common opinions, and I am not here to debate them. Instead, I would like to talk about a different kind of change brought about by Senator Obama.Voter turnout for people under the age of 30 is typically abysmal; Iowa is a perfect example, where youth turnout was at four percent in 2004 and three percent in 2000. Now fast forward to 2008, and the youth vote spiked to 13 percent. Where did those votes go? Obama’s voter base in Iowa came 57 percent from young voters. Of the 60 percent of people who were first time caucusers, 39 percent voted Obama. In Iowa, Obama had a lock on the youth vote.
In New Hampshire, the youth vote didn’t go to one candidate; voters between the ages of 18 and 24 came out in force for Obama, while voters from 25-29 supported Hillary Clinton. So why this difference? After seeing Obama’s success with the youth in Iowa, Clinton realized that she had underestimated the power of the youth vote.
In New Hampshire, she recalibrated her campaign to garner support from the working class youth — those voters who are out of the college environment, but still not into their thirties. Apparently this campaign worked to her advantage because Clinton took New Hampshire by three percent. Since the youth vote made up the largest proportion of Democrat voters in New Hampshire, it is pretty clear that Clinton’s victory came from her new focus on young voters.
So what does this all have to do with Obama and change? In my opinion, Obama has broken a cycle that has been perpetuated for years — young people simply do not vote, and so politicians simply do not focus on young people. Things are different now, and even if young people aren’t all voting for Obama any longer, if Clinton’s campaign in New Hampshire is any evidence, youth are going to play an important role in American politics in the future. Even if you don’t agree with Senator Obama’s politics, I think he can still be credited with starting a revolutionary change in voter turnout and campaign focus. Only time will tell.