Youth vote carries historic election
When I was in high school, there was an awful attitude toward voting in Texas. The slogan "Your vote counts!" fell on deaf ears as my jaded and cynical classmates would often retort, "Not in Texas." Most times people would ask, "What’s the point? It doesn’t matter how we vote – we’ll always be a red state." No one saw the point in voting in contrast to the rest of the state. However, with this history-making election, there is evidence that this belief is a dying mentality.
As reported on MSNBC.com’s Web site, "young voters preferred Obama over John McCain by 68 percent to 30 percent." According to CIRCLE, a non-partisan organization that tracks and promotes political engagement of Americans between ages 15 and 25, the outcome of the election has the highest share of the youth vote obtained by any candidate since exit polls began reporting results by age in 1976. Exit polls are reporting that one in 10 voters were voting for the first time this year, with six of the 10 being under the age of 30.
ABC News even made live broadcast references to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. An ABC News/Washington Post poll two weeks prior to the election reported "first-time likely voters are predominantly young, long Obama’s best support group; 69 percent of them are under age 30." It also stated "first-time likely voters this year include three times as many Democrats as Republicans, a sharp shift from 2004. Given their youth, a third of likely first-time voters are liberals, versus a quarter in 2004 (and more than 20 percent among repeat voters this year). Not only are we coming out to vote, we’re coming out and voting more Democratic.
No doubt about it, our generation is impacting this nation’s decisions when it comes to leadership, and with the way the media has evolved over the years, it’s really no wonder we’re paying closer attention.
The media has managed to sneak in issues of importance to a younger audience in the most ingenious way – through the use of accessible, yet smart, humor.
With informative news parody shows like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report, more youth can find politics accessible and public figures relatable, even if the view may appear slanted. Pointing out hypocrisy, absurdity and sometimes just plain ridiculousness, these shows appeal to our universal instinct to laugh at that which doesn’t make sense and cleverly fill us with a strong desire to correct our circumstances.
Tina Fey’s spitting-image portrayal of Gov. Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live left the nation confused as to who was who, getting each of us to turn to someone and say, "Did she really say that?" Fake interviews, mock debates and a personalized rap are among the scenes that had America rolling and clicking through YouTube more than ever.
Both Palin and Sen. John McCain appeared on the program, showing their ability to be good sports about the parodies. Even if you didn’t vote for them, you had to give them a gold star for having a sense of humor.
Instead of talking about SNL’s other skits, people were asking each other if they’d seen the latest Fey impersonation of Palin. Sure, the curiosity may have been sprung from a frivolous comedy sketch, but as most mockeries do, it contained some truth, and the uncanny resemblance was hard to ignore. Without really meaning to, people were talking about politics.
Although it should be obvious, people should not take their cues from a comedy show in order to form opinions on how the country should be run. However, taking a look at politicians from an angle in which we see our leadership as real people instead of pretentious elite is a sure-fire way to get people to think about whom they choose to represent them.
One may not love politics or the people involved, but it’s important to remain aware and informed. Apathy can only stand for so long, and before long the realization that we’ve been stripped of our rights, or worse, our ability to change will come too late. For now, let’s relish in this proud moment of improvement for Generation Y.
Pang, a communication senior, can be reached via [email protected]