A recent Rock the Vote poll of 18- to 29-year olds suggests that the “enthusiasm gap” between young Republicans and young Democrats, while slight, is a factor that could affect the outcome in crucial swing districts in this fall's elections.
The poll found that young Republicans are beating young Democrats 63 percent to 58 percent when it comes to how much attention respondents are paying to the election.
But the results aren't all one-sided for the Dems: 46 percent of youths retain a favorable view of the Democratic Party, while only 36 percent have a favorable view of the GOP. This month, many young Democrats across the country are working tirelessly to engage youth voters and close the enthusiasm gap.
When asked why youth do not seem as excited about the midterm election as they were about the 2008 presidential election, Rock the Vote president Heather Smith says that in 2008, youth “worked very hard and got engaged to elect a leader that spoke to them…but since then, I think they’ve been left wondering where that leadership had gone.”
Adrian Zamora, president of Texas State College Democrats, comments on the current mind frame of young voters: "All the new voters in 2008 are a little weary of voting Democrat again, because of the deflated economy, controversial legislation and a president who, at times, seems to not want to put his foot down. Democrats need to be scratching and clawing to ensure that young voters will return to the polls in November."
Anjani Nadadur, Press Secretary of The DC Federation of College Democrats, on the other hand, thinks that “the idea that there is even an ‘enthusiasm gap’ at all is a fallacy. College Democrats across the country who first got engaged in politics during the 2008 election have continued to work tirelessly for Democratic causes and candidates.”
Kaley Hanenkrat and Madeline Joseph, president and vice-president of the Columbia University College Democrats, have not seen evidence of the ‘enthusiasm gap’ either because “Columbia Democrats historically enjoy widespread support from the university and the New York community. “
While it is not surprising that many New Yorkers support College Democrats, youth votes may also produce favorable results for Democratic candidates in red states.
“Supporting Democrats in Texas is certainly an uphill battle,” says Adrian Zamora, “We are a red state, but our demographics are changing. We are increasingly turning purple. Democrats have a good shot at winning a statewide election for the first time in 16 years with Bill White. Without the youth vote, however, the road to victory is much more difficult.”
In order to combat the challenges that Democrats are facing this election and to take advantage of the opportunities, thousands of chapters of College Democrats and Young Democrats across the US are capitalizing on social media such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to spread their messages. On September 1, California College Democrats launched a video contest called, ‘Don’t Get Meg’d’ to increase awareness of why Meg Whitman should not be elected governor of California.
Emma Ellman-Golan, president of the University of Pennsylvania Democrats, highlights the ways that students are also bringing energy to more traditional campaign activities. “We can canvass for hours, and our course schedules let us volunteer during the work week. We’re out there every week going door to door to register voters, making canvassing trips, and hosting phone banks to get people enthused.”
“The fact remains that young people will be casting votes for Democrats,” says Ellman-Golan, “and we just have to convince them to make it out to the polls.”
The Nation would like to hear about how your youth organization is working to support Democratic causes and candidates. Please leave a comment or submit your Extra Credit article pitch to firstname.lastname@example.org. Pitches should be 200 words or less, and please send links to your organization or projects if you wish.