by Alina Basil
A year from now, many 18 year-olds will be preparing to cast votes in their first presidential election. While the official nomination for the Republican Party is a long way from being decided, candidates for the Republican nomination are a dime a dozen. It is obvious that none of the candidates are making appeals to the youth of America, the demographic they should be targeting.
In 2008, President Obama won more support from the 18 to 24 year-old demographic than he did with any other age group, which contributed significantly to his victory.
This demographic represents 13 percent of the voting population and has proved to be the most unified group. When it comes to straight numbers, the youth of America can really make a difference in an election, which is why nominees should be appealing to them.
While many seasoned voters have grown comfortably into their political views, most teenagers are still unsure about where their political allegiances lie. Therefore, it is less likely that they will only stick with Democratic or Republican candidates, but will instead vote for a candidate with a platform on which they can agree.
However, some of the Republican candidates hold beliefs that clash with the ideals of today’s more progressive youth. Because none of the political platforms appeal specifically to the younger voting population, many in this demographic might not be motivated to vote at all.
Political candidates should also focus on repairing their disconnect with youth. A successful strategy employed by Obama was his use of social media, like Facebook, to reach out to young voters.
While many voters were interested in his message of change and hope, others were just impressed that he attempted to reach out to them using the tools of their generation.
If nominees want to win over younger voters, it would be beneficial for them to utilize the social media sites that young voters have embraced.
In the 2008 election, young Republican turnout increased in almost every primary, according to Rock the Vote polls. These polls also reported that young Republicans’ top issues are jobs and the economy, immigration and gas prices.
Though the recent focus on the economy in GOP debates is a step in the right direction, Republican candidates Perry, Cain and Romney should do more. The support among young Republicans is there and only needs to be tapped by the nominees.
Obama will be campaigning for re-election in 2012. However, it is currently uncertain whether he will receive the same backing from the youth as he did in 2008.
The fervor that surrounded his campaign four years ago has largely dissipated because of his lackluster four years as president. But if no other presidential candidate can appeal to younger people the same way, he might win another presidential victory since younger voters may fall back on their previous champion.
Unfortunately, only about 50 percent of people ages 18 to 24 cast their votes, but this is partly because they are not targeted as a viable and powerful political audience. By overlooking young voters, politicians are underestimating a force that could determine the outcome of the race come November 2012.