2012 Election: A Failure To Mobilize The Youth Vote

1932 words - 8 pages

The American youth voted in fewer numbers during Obama's reelection than for his first term. Michael P. McDonald points out this simple fact in his Huffington Post article from May 2013. He explains this decline both statistically and through the theory of mobilization, the later of which lacks substance and direction. He assumes the decline is because of campaigns failures to engage the youth, completely ignoring the complex motives behind a young voters turnout. Through the rational choice and resource models, these motives can be better deciphered. Additionally, McDonald only holds campaigns responsible for mobilization failures disregarding social interaction and the resultant effects ...view middle of the document...

After all, it does not have to be colorful speeches and campaign balloons that gets young people out the door to cast a ballot.
So why did the youth vote less in 2012 than 2008? The scope of voter motivations extends beyond McDonald's narrow field in his article. Additional information can be gathered from the rational choice model, which looks at voting on an individual case by case basis to predict participation (Evans). Under the rational choice model, a voter will only vote is there is some net gain from the action. According to the model, voters take into a count whether or not their vote is decisive in deciding an election. The less decisive their vote will be the less likely they are to vote (Evans). In the case of the American youth, the social context of each election scrambled the decisive element of a vote, leading to evidence of a decline in turnout from 2008 to 2012.
This information can expand upon the voter motivations left out in McDonald's article. The 2008 presidential elections was the most historic in the lives of all people coming of voting age simply because an African-American was on the democratic ticket. Youth, who are historically the means of change (Pew Research), naturally jump at the opportunity to elect a black president. Thus, even if a vote will never decide the election, new voters believe their vote can still be productive in that it's electing a black president, Therefore, because of the historical change at stake in 2008, young voters will place more weight on their votes being decisive, thus encouraging more people to vote. When it came to reelection, the history was over and potential for change diminished. Thus, in the 2012 election, youth voters will not see the greater impact of their vote and will not be as inclined to cast a ballot. The youth will not have the same mindset of a greater goal as they did in 2008, and their rationality will once again tell them their vote will not be decisive. So because of the social context of the 2008 election, the rational choice model explains why young voters turned out to the polls less in 2012.
Additional information about youth voting decline can be draw from the resource model of participation. This model does not just predict who votes, but reasons why people vote. It takes demographic predictions from the socioeconomic status model and draws a conclusion about voting based on resources of time, money, and civic skill (Brady, Schlozman, Verba). The American youth demographic, ages 18 to 24, can be summarized succinctly. They are educated though inexperienced in life, thus lacking civic skills and money when compared with older demographics (Brady, Schlozman, Verba). While there was no radical shift in this demographic from 2008 to 2012, there are variables that played different roles at both times, most notably the recession that ran for most of the interim.
In November 2008, the recession was kicking off and youth unemployment, age 16 to 24, was at...

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