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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

This time, they're REALLY going to vote. For real this time. Seriously.

Every election, the media breathlessly proclaims that this time, the youth are really, really going to matter. They're going to show up in record numbers! They're going to make a difference! And then, Election Day rolls around in November and... nothing.

But this year, this year!, it's going to be different. This year, "the youth" actually are going to vote!
Election after election, when all the obvious story lines are exhausted, the media tend to turn to an oldie but goody: "Will this be the race where young people finally start voting?" Youth vote advocates insist that young people are more dialed in than ever this year, while political hacks who have been in the business for decades roll their eyes at the notion.

Given that, The Fix recognizes the danger in making the following statement: The youth vote will matter in 2008. A look back over the last few months shows a massive increase in youth (people ages 18 through 29) voting; the number of young people voting quadrupled in Tennessee and tripled in states such as Iowa, Missouri and Texas, according to a new study by Harvard University's Institute of Politics.

The report goes on to say that the growth in young people's participation in the electoral process is not a "one-time phenomenon" but, rather, represents a "civic reawakening of a new generation."

A civic reawakening? Were 20-year-olds "awake" to politics before and somehow "fell asleep"? Um... ok. And, you know, there's the teensy problem of this poll being conducted with MTV's help, which automatically dampens the prospect of it becoming a reality.

Look, if "young people" vote, then that's fantastic. If they don't, then oh well. They aren't going to make or break elections, no matter how much the media fawns over them. Every election season its the same old song and dance, and it ain't a different tune this time around.

Hat Tip: E.M. Zanotti


GeekParallax said...

I really like how the media automatically assumes that "the youth" will vote the way they want. Most of the people my age I know are apathetic about politics; The conservative young people I know seem way more politically active than any liberal ones.

Of course, the more left-leaning folks I know spend all their energy trying to save Darfur or something equally substance-less.

"We're raising awareness!" Congratulations! I'm sure it will do that child good to know that while his mother is raped to death and he is sold into slavery that some twenty-something in the United States is wringing their hands and wearing a T-shirt.
-Daniel Lewis

mkfreeberg said...

The "young people will turn this whole thing around" thing seems to be especially strong at the apex of the Morgan Freeberg Sixteen Year Election Cycle theory -- at that cyclical event in which one of the candidates is part of the "new" generation.

Of course that correlation breaks down in 1972, the year in which the importance of the youth vote was reported most breathlessly. And the predictions, it turned out, were the most inaccurate.