After clicking on the newest Beyoncé video, I tap my foot, watching the seconds tick away before I can click “skip” on the annoying political ad proceeding Queen Bey’s flawless moves. I’m not alone – we all do it. Just as we’re about to dance like our roommate’s not home, we hear, “My name is [insert suit-and-tie-wearing politician here] and I sponsored this message.”
Already frustrated that we then have to wait another five seconds before we can toggle between YouTube and Buzzfeed, we skip the advertisement and its message goes back into cyberspace for some other potential voter to skip.
But what are the implications of our impatience?
Since party identification and voting have become critical in America’s young electorate, reaching Generation Y is top priority for Republicans, Democrats and independents alike. According to USA Today, in the 2012 election alone, voters ages 18-29 comprised 18 percent of the electorate and nearly 50 percent voted to reelect Barack Obama – giving him a substantial boost over competitor Mitt Romney.
While a slim margin of the young white vote went to Romney, young minorities and women voted overwhelmingly for Obama. This advantage in the young vote helped Obama win battleground states like Florida and Virginia, where voters 30 and older casted their ballots for Romney.
Previously criticized for our political apathy, lack of party identification and general laissez-faire approach to political involvement, college-aged voters are consistently written off as too distracted or disinterested to make a difference in the vote. However, according to the Pew Research Center, this idea is slowly becoming as archaic as Myspace. In the 2008 and 2012 elections, 20 percent of the electorate was under 30 and 60 percent of those voters had a hand in Obama’s reelection.
Was this increase in voter turnout and party identification a result of the Democrats’ increased online presence? Is it possible that young people watched that ad before the Macklemore video?
It’s more than possible. In the 2008 election, Obama hired Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes to help manage his online presence. Hughes increased video presence, making the clips “Obama Speech: A More Perfect Union,” which shows the president’s speech from Philadelphia in 2008 on race in America, and “CBS exposes Hillary Clinton Bosnia trip,” a segment from CBS News, rank at Nos. 4 and 16, respectively, for most viewed political videos on YouTube, according to Politico.
At Temple and other college campuses, it’s about joining the conversation. Though we do skip those ads when they bombard YouTube, it’s impossible to ignore the continuous stream of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Buzzfeed chatter. Instead of tuning into the news at 6 and 11 p.m., young voters are scrolling through political statuses, memes of Romney’s “binders full of women” comment or Buzzfeed’s breakdown of Obama’s newest policy. Before the Oct. 3 debates, the Obama campaign posted a meme of Lindsay Lohan in “Mean Girls” that read “It’s Oct. 3,” playing on the attractiveness of pop culture awareness.
Social media is helping to lure young voters from behind computer screens to the polls.
How many emails did you receive from Barack or Michelle Obama asking for a donation? How many Tumblr blogs did you notice during this last election, from Organizing for Action’s official blog to the fan-created “Obama.face” featuring hilarious candid photos of the president? Did you like a status ranting about the debates? Did you share the Big Bird meme responding to Romney’s threat to cut PBS to reduce the deficit? Better yet, did you vote and Snapchat a selfie with your ‘I voted today’ sticker?
The bottom line is, whether we click skip or scroll past political information, it’s there – we have to acknowledge its existence in order to ignore it.
Lora Strum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.