AU MA Social Media

A class blog about social media.

Can Barack Obama Re-inspire American Youth?

Posted by nbalkhjav on July 16, 2012

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The 2008 Presidential election was a historical event for number of reasons. One of them is arguably the mass involvement of young voters. While most candidates in the race focused on town hall meetings and rallies, Barack Obama gave stump speeches at high schools and universities. By targeting this relatively young demographic, he reintroduced the ‘youth vote’ phenomenon. Being the ‘young’ candidate, who promised ‘change’ and ‘hope’, Obama made technology his vital tool to win the hearts and votes of the millennial generation. How did he manage to mobilize this rebellious group and use them as an asset for his historical campaign? And can he capture those “youth votes” once again in the upcoming presidential election? 

Young people very seldom get involved with politics. To them, politics is mainly seen as irrelevant and boring. Year after year, the polls showed the same low voter turnout among young voters. But 2008 was a completely different story. According to the PEW, youth vote turnout rose by 13%, becoming the second largest youth voter turnout in American history (first was 1972 with Richard Nixon). 66% of young voters under 30 voted for Barack Obama.

For the youth, Obama was the epitome of the slogan he carried, hope and change. They supported the young candidate fighting against the ‘old order’ and the ‘old statesman.’ Obama pushed change against the norm, which inexplicitly evoked a sense of participation and challenge. Also, just simply identifying with his supporters was critical in his campaign. Obama therefore communicated with the tech-savvy youths in their native tongue, making his campaign extremely high-tech. Obama was relatable to the young public in every way, because he was ‘young and hip’ (unlike his opponents). Young people wanted fresh face to represent the country and themselves.

His 2008 campaign embraced the social media and used web 2.0 as a central platform. He is the poster child of successful online communication. He has over 17,000,000 followers on twitter, while his Facebook and Myspace accounts each have over 20,000,000 subscriptions. He has taken his grassroots campaign into the digital age when he targeted his young voters via these real time online communication tools. With the addition of youtube and candidate website he created and kept a strong presence. Via these social media tools, the supporters and the potential voters got news and information as well as the chance to participate in activities and fundraising. By utilizing web 2.0 and social networking, Barack Obama has changed the way political candidates run for office in America. 

Many will agree that young voters made Barack Obama the president of the United States. But do they still idolize him after four critical years? What should he do in order to capture the youth votes again? The struggling economy is still the biggest concern in our country today. In order to re-inspire the millennial generation, Obama needs to restore faith that the economy will improve. Moreover, he should continue using the information-age tools that worked so well for him in 2008. 

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