After a fitful night's sleep worrying about the upcoming election, it took more than cupfuls of coffee to fully awaken Ben Stango. As the president of Yale for Hillary, Stango was up at 6:30 a.m. to groggily start campaigning. But once he got on the New Haven Green and saw a few of his fellow early-risers, he became charged with excitement.
"It's really energizing to see so many people in support of our cause," he said.
Stango and his classmates stood outside a local polling station for 12 hours Tuesday in an effort to increase Hillary Clinton's visibility.
"It's really great to be able to talk to people asking legitimate questions," Stango said. "It ended up being a really great way to start the day."
OBAMA TAKES YOUTH VOTE
Though Stango worked to generate interest in Clinton with young voters, Barack Obama continued to dominate that demographic. According to exit polls, the Illinois senator edged out Clinton with voters aged 17 to 29 in several Super Tuesday states despite losing the overall vote in those same states, as of late Tuesday.
Obama won among young voters 59 percent to 33 percent in Missouri, 59 percent to 39 percent in New Jersey and 58 percent to 40 percent in Clinton's home territory of New York, according to CNN exit polls from Tuesday.
Overall it was a mixed bag for the Democrats. Clinton won the biggest states -- New York and California -- while Obama won 12 of the 20 states called by major news organizations early Wednesday morning.
If the youth didn't participate at a historic level, Obama might not have done as well as he did, said Ashwin Mudaliar, political director of the Stanford Democrats. None of the others crafted a message that appealed to college students.
"One thing we heard from college focus groups was that they wanted change and less partisan bickering...maybe Obama embodies that," said Emily Kirby, spokeswoman of Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement.
YOUTH VOTE ON THE RISE
Stango's involvement is not uncommon among registered voters in his school, his state or even his party.
Voter turnout among 18 to 29 year olds increased 11 percentage points in 2004 from a 25-year low of 36 percent participation in 2000, according to CIRCLE Polls. Turnout increased another 3 percentage points in 2006.
Considering this year's doubling and tripling of youth turnout in New Hampshire and Iowa, respectively, the number of young voters participating is likely to raise more, Kirby said.
"It's been proven that simply asking young people to vote is effective. It increases turnout by 8 to 10 percent," she said.
Voters also come out in higher numbers if it is easier to vote and if the race is close. The large candidate pool and the increase of states with election-day registration contributed to increased youth participation.
Asking students to vote, the close race and ease of voting have played a part in the draw young people feel toward this year's election.
Given this trend, many have looked to explain why it has begun to emerge during these past few elections.
"What we saw for a long time was a chicken and the egg scenario with young voters and candidates," said Alexandra Acker, Young Democrats for America representative. "Candidates thought they didn't vote so they didn't target them, and youth felt they weren't being targeted so they didn't vote."
This stereotype has begun to change, in part because of current events.
"A lot of it had to do with the Iraq war being a galvanizing issue that brought politics into the minds of young people" she said, pointing out that it wasn't until the 2004 election that the spike in young voters occurred.
Politcians are looking to captivate this increasingly relevant demographic, particularly Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee.
"The Obama campaign proves that when you target young people, they turn out," said YDA Representative Acker. "They've prioritized the youth vote and have been the first to capitalize on the trend."
Huckabee's campaign in Iowa netted 37 percent of voters 17 to 24 years old, nearly double that of Ron Paul, a college favorite.
"The most effective part of Huckabee's campaign in Iowa was his grassroots effort among young voters," said Ethan Elion, executive director of the College Republican National Committee. "It boded very well for him. Young voters are more skeptical than their older counterparts, so it makes them resilient to the slick advertising that a lot of other campaigns put out."
A candidates' message, as well as their strategies for delivering it, are very important for motivating youths, said Chrissy Faessen, representative from Rock the Vote, a non-partisan outreach group.
This political capital has become more appealing to candidates. The millennial generation -- those 30 years old and younger -- at 22 million is the second largest generation in American history.
Kai Stinchcombe, president of the Roosevelt Institute, a student-run think tank, said that the power of his generation has come to light after watching how certain campaigns reacted to the Iowa returns.
"A month before Iowa, Mark Penn [senior advisor to Clinton] said 'These young people are never going to vote. Obama's plan is never gonna happen.' But Penn was wrong, and after Iowa, Clinton started focusing more on the youth. That played a large part in her winning the 25 to 29 group in New Hampshire," Stinchcombe said. "We're holding our own as a demographic group."
© 2008 U-WIRE via U-WIRE