As citizens across the nation cast their vote for a new president Tuesday, young Americans turned out at the polls in record numbers, and experts think web technology may be the reason.
The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement projected that 21.6 million to 23.9 million young Americans voted in Tuesdays election, an increase of about 2.2 million since the 2004 presidential election.
Declare Yourself, a national nonpartisan, nonprofit campaign that encourages youth voting, attributes the increase to the widespread use of technology in todays world.
Young people have access to the news and whats dramatic about this election more than anybody else, said Diana Nguyen, associate director of Declare Yourself. [The presidential race] was unfolding in real time over the Internet and the youth population is just so on top of it.
The web gave youth voters the resources to have questions about the elections answered that can be overwhelming and hard to find. Nguyen said technology made it easier for youth to express their voice about the race, calling it the YouTube election.
YouTube gave people the venue to go out there and be very public about their opinion, Nguyen said. Everyone knew that was the way to get attention, you made a viral video, you made a statement on video and who knows better to do that than younger people.
According to Nguyen, Obama and his staff were smart about harnessing the power of technology and reaching out to young people. Text messaging, iPhone applications, MySpace and Facebook were all tools the Obama campaign took advantage of early on to gain youth support.
Nguyen said college campuses need to get involved in the trend and take responsibility to engage people with the web, and communicating information in this viral way and using their networks of young people.
CIRCLE spokesperson David Roscow said this election has been an opportunity to keep youth involved in the world around them.
This is an opportunity for the Obama administration and organizations around to keep this momentum building, not only keep people involved in politics, but keep them involved in civics, in their communities, Roscow said.
Nguyen expects the technology will mobilize youth in future elections.
The world is more web-based, thats the way the world is changing, we should get very used to the fact this is going to be a big part of politics.