Friday, November 07, 2008

Young love

DFL on the march, November 1, 2008 (photo: North Star Liberty)
Click image to view large version, and see if you can find Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak

I have had it with the Republican Party treating voters under 30 as an "outreach" group. I had the not unexpected experience of watching a large DFL contingent march in the annual University of Minnesota Homecoming parade, complete with campaign bus and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak zig-zagging through the parade spectators, shaking hands and posing for pictures — without a corresponding presence from the Minnesota Grand Old Party.

The existing conservative and College Republican groups need the active engagement of the party: funding, candidate and elected official appearances, and accountability for growing their membership.

Besides a physical presence at colleges and universities, skillful use of Internet technologies has replaced phone banks and direct mail as the most effective way to reach this key demographic. This article sums it up well:

...young voters may prove to have been the key to Barack Obama's victory. Young voters preferred Obama over John McCain by 68 percent to 30 percent — the highest share of the youth vote obtained by any candidate since exit polls began reporting results by age in 1976, according to CIRCLE, a non-partisan organization that promotes research on the political engagement of Americans between ages 15 and 25.

Through a steady stream of texts and Twitters, experts agree Obama has managed to excite young voters by meeting them where they live — online.

“This is a group of people who are constantly checking in with everybody else in their circle to make a decision,” says Morley Winograd, the co-author of “Millennial Makeover: MySpace, YouTube, and the Future of American Politics” and a former adviser to Vice President Al Gore. He defines Millennials as ages 18 to 26.

“This is a generation that doesn't tend to think about asking experts for opinion," Winograd says. "They tend to ask each other, and then that becomes the truth.”

Winograd says that means no decision is made without dozens of e-mails, texts or Facebook messages to check whether an idea works for the whole group — anything from “Where should we hang out tonight?” to “Who should we vote for?” — which could explain why Millennials so firmly latched onto Obama’s message of unity, he says.

Yes, the McCain campaign had an extensive web site, YouTube ads, Facebook groups, etc., but these initiatives are sorely lacking at the state and BPOU level. "The youth vote" came of age in 2008. The Republican Party at all levels needs to take this demographic seriously if it wants to avoid being marginalized in 2010, 2012, and beyond.

1 comment:

Steve said...

The Winona State and St Mary's University CR's came to a different county (& BPOU) to help in our local parade.

Without their help our parade entry would have been very scrawny looking.