Youth Culture   /   Spring 2009   /    Essays

A Generation Apart

Youth Voters and the 2008 Presidential Election

Anna Greenberg

Barack Obama speaks at the 2008 DNC (Carol Highsmith). Via Wikimedia Commons.

In November 2008, Barack Obama captured 66 percent of the youth vote, a success on par with other core Democratic constituencies like union members (61 percent)and Hispanics (67 percent).

This achievement was one of the biggest stories of the election, only diminished by some disappointment that younger people did not turn out in higher numbers.

It is easy to say that this extraordinary level of support for Obama is, well, all about Obama. He is young, charismatic, and multiracial and speaks in a postpartisan lan- guage younger people identify with. Moreover, the Obama campaign built an unprec- edented organizing infrastructure that was at once highly personal and very modern, tapping into young people’s addiction to new communication technologies. Certainly, the campaign made outreach to younger people a higher priority than any presidential campaign in recent memory.

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