House campaign seeks youth vote in upcoming election

by: Trevor Metcalfe – Managing Editor – temetcal@unca.edu

Campaigns for the U.S. District 10 House seat said they plan to reach out to the thousands of eligible young voters during this election cycle.

“The Patsy Keever for Congress campaign has always been aware that the way to reach young voters is to approach them on their terms,” said Becky Elming, communications director for Keever’s campaign.

In 2008, then-Senator Barack Obama used a campaign based on youth volunteers and social media outreach to receive two-thirds of the votes of those under the age of 30. Seventeen million more young people are eligible to vote in this election than in 2008, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.

“One of the things that was huge in 2008 was (Obama’s) gigantic field campaign that had lots of people on the ground,” said Abby Kiesa, youth coordinator and researcher with CIRCLE. “That’s what youth voter research says. That when young people are contacted, especially by peers, in an interactive and personal way, they are much more likely to turnout to vote.”

Elming said her campaign tries to communicate with young people on their terms.

“Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have been key sources of communications between all of our voters and the campaign,” Elming said. “We have held meet and greets at local bars and restaurants so interested constituents can get a chance to talk to Patsy and let her know what is important to them. Patsy wants real stories from real people. She isn’t one to stay in the office.”

Madeline Keeter, campaign manager for current 10th District congressman Patrick McHenry, said their campaign also reaches out to young voters in community and college campus groups.

“We work in coordination with Young Republicans and College Republicans groups to reach out specifically to younger voters,” Keeter said.

Keeter said her campaign also uses grassroots outreach, door-to-door campaigning and phone banking to attract young voters. Since the 2008 election, many Republican-allied groups such as Young Americans for Romney, Maverick PAC, Crossroads Generation and Generational Opportunity have begun to surface and attract young voters, using issues like the economy and jobless rate among recent graduates to drive out the vote.

“The Republican party, and certainly the Romney campaign, is trying to turn around the massive youth support that Obama got, and try to lessen that in 2012,” Kiesa said.

However, Kiesa said the party had a long battle ahead if they wanted to match the Democrats’ sway over young voters. Kiesa also dismissed claims that youth voted blue in 2008 because Obama was the more appealing candidate.

“Exit poll data in 2008 asked people why they voted for who they did, and 59 percent of young people who voted said that they voted for the candidate they did because of issues,” Kiesa said.

Keeter said the economy was the main issue young voters were asking about. Unemployment doubled from 5 to 10 percent during Obama’s first term, but has fallen to 8 percent in recent months, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Our campaign is focused on making sure students get the best education they can with the lowest burden of debt possible,” Elming said. “That way, with a slow economy or not, students will have the foundation they need. Young voters should not be discouraged about the slow economy, but the threat of their college loan rates skyrocketing and education becoming a commodity for the rich.”

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