Youth vote flocks to the polls

Alex Curran

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Defying predictions, the youth vote was a major factor in the presidential election for the second straight year, making up a bigger percentage of the overall electorate in 2012 than in 2008.

The youth demographic, the 18-29-year-old range, made up 19 percent of the vote this year, up 1 percent from 2008, according to the National Election Poll conducted by Edison Research.

“There was low expectations because of a long history of the youth vote disappointing,” said Martin Saiz, political science professor.

Pundits thought enthusiasm would be down among youth voters because the excitement of electing the first black president would be gone. Saiz points out that the youth vote was much lower in 2008 than initially expected and thinks the youth making out 18 to 19 percent of the electorate will be a permanent thing. The demographic has steadily been increasing their vote since 1996.

Karen Gonzales, a freshman majoring in liberal studies, did not vote and was surprised by the high turnout among young people.

“I thought students lacked information and would blow it off because they didn’t care,” Gonzales said.

The passage of information between friends and politicians through social media may be getting young people to the polls, Saiz said.

“President Obama is the first politician to figure out and use social media and young people are big users of social media,” Saiz said.

Facebook also got involved in promoting the election, advertising “click this is you voted” link where users could post an “I Voted” sticker.

But aside from the social media’s influence on the youth vote, issues like marijuana legalization, gay marriage, education and Obamacare were ballot issues that young people are very passionate about, Saiz said.

“A lot of Obama’s policies targeted the youth,” Saiz said. “Allowing people to stay on their parent’s insurance companies until they’re 25 is something that directly affects young people.”

Lizzette Figueroa, a junior biology major, is not surprised that the youth made up 19 percent of the electorate because a lot of young people are still excited and involved in politics.

“The (policies) that Obama has brought out the youth vote,” Figueroa said. “I don’t know if (the youth vote) was all for Obama, but that’s who a lot of my friends and people I’ve talked to voted for.”

Obama carried the youth demographic at 59 percent and Mitt Romney received 37 percent, according to CNN exit polls, a seven point drop from the 66 percent of young people that voted for him in 2008. Romney did steal some of the youth vote, but the democrats controlled a lion’s share of the demographic.

The GOP was beat in all growing demographics, including Latinos, women and young people. Saiz said that the GOP is going to have to change their political strategy because catering to white males is not working anymore.

“If you told Karl Rove 10 years ago that Republicans would get 70 percent of the vote, he’d think he had an easy victory. That’s not the case anymore,” Saiz said.

For 2016, Saiz thinks that the GOP will switch their political strategy to compete with the Democrats to gain the Latino and the youth votes.

“(The GOP) are going to have to change their views on a lot of social issues, which won’t be easy,” Saiz said.

Saiz is predicting that Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination in 2016, which will have the GOP focusing less on gaining the woman vote and more on battling the Democrats for the Latino and youth vote.