Politicians miss target audience

By SpencerRoush

Remember the 2008 election when Grant Park was filled with hopefuls awaiting President Barack Obama’s speech and the young 14 million-plus supporters who followed his campaign?

It was a moment when many youths took interest in politics for the first time because of Obama’s “changing America” campaign or his smooth, powerfully delivered speeches. Either way, their attention was all his and Obama took advantage.

Obama managed to tap into a demographic overlooked or unsuccessfully targeted by nearly every political candidate.

Young adults are typically an afterthought when it comes to gaining votes. Perhaps it’s because politicians think they don’t go to the polls on Election Day or they are too incompetent to understand the weight of the election and how policy affects them.

The 2008 election outcome proved this conception wrong. This is not to say that Sen. John McCain didn’t have college-aged supporters, but his campaign base certainly wasn’t directed toward blossoming adults.

Obtaining this demographic’s attention and vote should be a priority for both the Democratic and Republican parties at a state and federal level, even more so after seeing the support they gave in the past election.

Since Obama-mania euphoria wore off, most young voters fell back asleep when it comes to the political realm despite the upcoming Nov. 2 election for Illinois Senate. The ballot is filled with unpopular or un-relatable candidates like Congressman Mark Kirk, State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, Gov. Pat Quinn and Sen. Bill Brady.

Although this election doesn’t have powerhouse Obama or media-thriving Sarah Palin to keep audiences enthralled, the gubernatorial and senatorial races may be more vital to our daily lives as state residents than presidential elections.

The seats up for election—including but not limited to the congressional, senatorial and gubernatorial seats—have a direct, more immediate effect on day-to-day operations, taxes and services rendered by the state. In fact, people mostly complain about what state legislatures decide for them, rather than what’s done on a large, federal government scale.

However, low voter turnout for non-presidential elections is consistently a problem. Perhaps notifying youth about state issues and how local candidates can work for their benefit could solve the turnout problem.

Candidates should put in more time to notify young people about their platform, why their position is important, how it applies to them and why they are right for the job. It worked for Obama, so why not carry on this same campaign tactic and make young people feel as though their vote counts? Because non-presidential elections elect candidates based on the popular vote, rather than the Electoral College, this is actually a time when someone’s individual ballot does count.

One thing the young generation has proved is they are willing to rally, raise money and vote when they make a connection to a candidate. State candidates should be making more of an effort to recognize young adults and ask for their support before Nov. 2. This demographic is accessible and widely underutilized.