2008 election marks the return of the youth vote

When Barack Obama was declared president-elect, at just past 11 p.m. on Nov. 4, young people across the country took to the streets to celebrate. This year’s election electrified young voters more than any election in the past few decades, with students volunteering and voting in record numbers. Obama, in particular, captivated the American consciousness and the support of American youth. “He’s grabbing young people’s attention, which hasn’t really been done before,” sophomore Barat Hostetler said. The second youngest president-elect in the history of the country, Obama is seen among many in the younger generation as being the breath of air that the United States needs. “This year, I think it’s clear [that] because of Obama, students are getting involved,” UVM Political Science professor Frank Bryan said. “He’s young, liberal, charismatic and idealistic.” There were doubts as to whether or not young people would actually bother to cast their votes come Election Day. Obama’s supporters did more than merely talk, however. In a study released by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics (IOP), 94 percent of students surveyed said that they intended to vote either in person or by absentee ballot. The study found that 56 percent of 18 to 24 year-old voters preferred Obama, compared to 30 percent who said they supported John McCain. According to a press release following the election on Tuesday, Student Public Interest Research Groups said that students at universities nationwide voted in never-before-seen numbers. The press release showed Precinct 1 in Bloomington, In. – home to Indiana University – had a 287 percent increase in votes cast compared with the 2004 presidential election. More than 3,110 students in the precinct voted, compared with just 804 in 2004. “This is definitely … the biggest turnout for people my age,” junior and Student Government Association senator Chris Shackett said. “It has been such a devastating eight years, [and] that will motivate just about anyone to want change.” “I have observed the obvious unmatched excitement for Barack Obama’s presidential candidacy from people who may not have otherwise bothered to vote in the past,” newly elected State Representative and UVM alumna Kesha Ram said. Vermont State Representative David Zuckerman also expressed the prevalence of the youth’s excitement around Obama. “Young people are extraordinarily anti-war, they’re much more holistic in their thinking than the current president in terms of equal rights, fairness,” he said. “Senator Obama really has put those feelings into a body.” Voters now can choose between two political parties with very different ideals, as opposed to one party whose ideals lead the way and another who turns their ideals into a paler version of the dominant ideology, UVM Political Science professor Anthony Gierzynski said.