Today, the issue of same-sex marriage is one of the most controversial topics in the UnitedStates.After North Carolina passed Amendment One on May 8th, which bans same-sex marriage in the state, President Barack Obama backed gay marriage later on May 9. With the upcoming election, such a significant decision begs the question, is the President truly trying to make same-sex marriage legal across the nation, or is he trying to gain votes from supporters of gay marriage? According to the Huffington Post, Barack Obama says that, “I’ve always been adamant that gay and lesbian American should be treated fairly”, however, the article also states that the President’s decision will have little political impact because the matter is still being discussed in different lights in many state courts.
Throughout our government class this past year, we examined strategies presidential candidates use to help their campaigns and get elected, including convincing campaign commercials and targeting a young demographic. This study leads me to reexamine the President’s recent support of gay marriage. Just as candidates target a demographic of young voters, could President Obama be using this announcement as a strategy to target the demographic of LGBT voters? The President is well aware that passing national same-sex legislation would be nearly impossible, especially due to the amount of states that have banned same-sex marriage (29 states total) greatly outweighing those that allow it (9 states total), according to the graph seen below from the Pew Research Center. During the President’s first run for office, he only supported civil unions between same-sex couples, so it could be argued that his “change of heart” could have the purpose to gain more votes in the race against Governor Romney, which is predicted to be an incredibly close match up.
Despite these inferences of President Obama’s intentions when it comes to his stance on same-sex marriage, his declaration of support may end up not making a difference to voters whatsoever. According to a poll taken by USA Today, 60% of voters say that the President’s announcement will not make a difference on whom they vote for come November. Only 13% of voters say that his support of gay marriage will make them more likely to vote for him, as opposed to 26% reporting that the President’s stance will make it less likely for them to vote for him. Nevertheless, this historical announcement will make for a very interesting election this fall, and if the President is reelected, I will be even more curious as to whether he chooses to take action on his support of gay marriage, or rather abandons a route of action for a change.
Out of the many concepts related to elections, voter participation was a topic that really affected me in particular. We examined what percentage of youth voted and what motivated them to fulfill their civic duty and vote. I couldn’t help but put myself in the shoes of the youth we were examining and think, “this will be me in one short year.”
What fascinated me was the steady increase in youth voter participation from the year 2000 to today, as seen in our textbook. We learned from author Shea that in the 18-24 year old demographic, in the years 2000, 2004, and 2008, youth voter participation increased from 32.2% to 41.9% to 48.5%, respectively (Shea, 152). Despite there being attitudinal change, or the role of news media affecting the voter turnout negatively, there has still been an increase in youth voting. What is going to motivate myself to vote when the time comes? More so, this leads me to ask the question, what is causing a generation that is periodically stereotyped as lazy and lacking care to vote, and even naive?
Cartoon found at Brian Dennert’s blog
After reading through statistics on how voting increased, I continued to explore the CIRCLE (Center for Information and Research on Civil Learning and Engagement) site, I found much information stating that youth want to vote when they are sought out with a quality contact. The answer to why many youths vote is fairly simple: young voters will vote when a campaign campaigns to them. What the message is does not concern young voters; it is how the message is communicated. Young voters respond when they feel that campaigns are speaking directly to them. This is why informative e-mails, Facebook groups, and engaging Twitter accounts are so important to capture the attention of young voters today. Social media seems to consume young people in today’s world, so why not use it for productivity? Implementing social media into the tools to capture the minds of youth voters can lead to a monumental increase in youth voter participation.
In addition to youth being campaigned to, we want our government to have the share the youth’s passion for the issues we care about the most. According to the graph below presented by Complete Campaigns, youth care most about the economy and jobs.
Caring most about jobs and the economy, it is clear that today’s youth is most concerned about financial security for their futures. The key to campaigns engaging youth is showing them that the candidate cares about similar issues. Presenting this shared care of issues is another thing that motivates youth to become involved in the political process.
In my opinion, voter participation has been one of the most vital things I have learned this past trimester. Learning how campaigns will want to secure my vote when the time comes helped me understand why young people vote, as well as why it is so important to get young voters attention. Young voters, my generation, are the future of the country. Our opinions matter equally, if not greater, than the generation running the country currently. Most of all, this lesson motivated me to definitely participate in voting when my time comes.