Young voters showed up in droves on Election Day 2008. According to The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, there was a five percent increase in the number of young voters (people between the ages of 18 and 29) who voted in 2008 compared to 2004. Furthermore, the youth vote accounted for 18 percent of the overall vote on Election Day. Finally, the young vote favored Barack Obama by a margin of two to one.
This relatively large upswing in the young vote was cultivated by Obama and his successful campaign. According to a recent article in Youth Media Reporter: The Professional Journal of the Youth Media Field, Obama recognized that proper use of the media is just as important as the message itself. Obama hit the ground running during the early part of his campaign, focusing on many new media tactics and Web 2.0 tools to advertise his message. According to a Washington Post article, Obama created his Web site by recruiting one of the founders of Facebook, a CNN producer and an individual who enjoys text messaging. Because of his use of these new media tools and tactics, young people were moved to vote for Obama; he spoke their language.
Now, Obama is set to take over the role of Commander-in-Chief on January 20, 2009. In large part, Obama has to thank these young, tech-savvy voters, whom he inspired via new media to vote for him. However, it is Obama’s responsibility to keep this relationship cultivated; as the president, he must continue to use the new media strategies he used during the campaign to maintain his popularity and status with the young voting bloc.
Currently, President George W. Bush makes a weekly radio address on Fridays or Saturdays. Each communiqué has a theme or topic. President-Elect Obama has adopted this technique and modified it to fit his Web 2.0 practices. Every week since the election, the president-elect releases aYouTube address to speak directly to his supporters. The first address alone is nearing one million views. The headline of a recent Los Angeles Times article touted this important strategy. The article, which was titled “Keeping Obama’s young army engaged,” stated Obama must continue to interact with young voters via new media; the weekly YouTube address is a great first step.
One of Obama’s primary messages during the campaign was to make public service compelling for young people. A recent Harvard University pollindicated young people are interested in public service, but want to be asked directly before they actually make the commitment. Using the weekly YouTube address, Obama can ask young people to engage in public service and move support for his policy. It is essential that Obama continues to make the YouTube address when he becomes the president in order to maintain his appeal to the young bloc.
According to the Los Angeles Times article, Obama’s supporters enjoyed receiving regular e-mails and text messages from the campaign before the election. In order to keep these people engaged, Obama must continue communicating with them via e-mail and text messaging. Because he did motivate so many young people to help him during the campaign through the use of new media, Obama will likely continue this form of communication in order to gain support for his policies.
In all, Obama led an impressive campaign that attracted many tech-savvy young voters. In order to keep this new base, Obama must continue to engage young voters. We can expect to see a continuation of the YouTube address, but he must also continue sending regular e-mails and text messages and use other forms of new media technologies from Obama when he becomes president in order to move public support in favor of his issues and policies.
–posted by JJ DeSimone
Originally posted November 25, 2008 at PolicyByBlog