In the 2008 presidential election, an estimated 22 to 24 million young Americans voted, the highest voter turnout since 1972, according to msnbc.com.
Sixty-six percent of Democratic votes in 2008 came from voters between the ages of 18 and 29 years old, according to the Pew Research Center.
That age bracket was integral to President Barack Obama’s successful campaign. Young voters contributed numbers, but also a spirited commitment to the idea of change, helping to launch the Obama wave across the nation.
Obama kicked off his re-election campaign last week.
Even though the political landscape is very different now than it was in 2008, young voters can still make a difference.
Among the possible Republican contenders in 2012 are some familiar faces from 2008 (Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee) as well as some unanticipated ones (Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann).
Since taking office, Obama has developed a more centrist leadership style, which has undoubtedly impacted the opinions of Democrats, Republicans and moderates alike.
The President finds himself dealing with a budget crisis that has left many Democrats who might have supported him four years ago dissatisfied and openly critical.
But what hasn’t changed since 2008 is the youth’s importance to the electoral process and its outcome.
No matter their political allegiance, students can determine the outcome of the next presidential election. Getting excited about voting next year while being passionate and informed on key issues is vital.
Despite the huge turnout in 2008, young Americans regressed to passivity in the 2010 midterm elections: Only 9 percent of 18-29 year olds voted, down from 18 percent just two years before. Many students felt their votes wouldn’t make a difference, or that they just weren’t as in touch with the issues at hand in the midterm elections.
It’s time to get excited again.
The 2012 presidential election is crucial for a variety of reasons. Future leadership will determine the fate of countless issues at the forefront of national debate: health care, the budget, economic progress, education, climate change and illegal immigration. Even more relevant for students are issues of unemployment, the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act and rising college costs in the context of the struggling economy.
It might sound idealistic or cliché, but finding an issue to be genuinely passionate about is what will allow students to make a difference in 2012.
In 2008, that was an active belief in Obama’s trademark trifecta: hope, action and change. In 2012, it’s up to you.
Taking action by joining a club, taking a class, attending a seminar, reading the news or engaging in anything that complements your passion will ensure the fervent motivation our generation needs for 2012.
Enhancing civil discourse would also be beneficial. It would be both informative and encouraging to see more public student debates held on campus.
Since the youth have the chance to truly make a difference next year, paying attention to and staying informed about such issues is crucial. This is not the time to be apathetic or uninformed.
The 2012 presidential election might be the first time you vote. It might the third or fourth. But no matter what, 2012 will be a defining year. Get passionate about the election, and make sure your vote is an informed one.
Elena Kadvany is a junior majoring in Spanish.