Youth Fervor High At DNC, But Lagging Behind 2008 President Obama drew strong support from the youth vote in 2008. This election season, analysts say enthusiasm for the president has declined. While young adults are visible at the Democratic National Convention, some young people acknowledge apathy among their peers.
NPR logo

Youth Fervor High At DNC, But Lagging Behind 2008

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Youth Fervor High At DNC, But Lagging Behind 2008

Youth Fervor High At DNC, But Lagging Behind 2008

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


We heard a lot of expectations there but not much from the convention's youth contingent: 644 delegates under the age of 35. Polls show young adult support for President Obama at around 55 percent, that's slightly down from 2008.

So we asked Youth Radio's Bianca Brooks to check in with some young people at the convention to find how they plan to recapture that momentum.

BIANCA BROOKS, BYLINE: At the first Youth Press Conference of the DNC, I asked the question that was on everyone's mind.

ALEJANDRA SALINAS: Do you have other questions?

BROOKS: What do you think is dampening the enthusiasm for Obama voters?

SALINAS: You know, I have to disagree with you.

BROOKS: That's Alejandra Salinas. She's president of the College Democrats of America.

SALINAS: When you talk about a lack of enthusiasm on college campuses, I want to give you some real tangible examples of that not being the case. We, as an organization of College Democrats, have seen incredible growth since 2008.

BROOKS: Salinas says her group keeps adding chapters in key states, such as Florida and Ohio. She's a speaker at the convention and is passionate about the president. After the press conference, she pointed to his policy change on student loans that helped her.

SALINAS: And if interest rates had gone up to 6.6 percent, that would be tens of thousands of dollars more that I'd be paying in just interest alone if that policy had passed.

BROOKS: Salinas also says she's grateful to be staying on her parents' insurance, thanks to health care reform. And in her opinion, President Obama still has the cool factor and points to his now famous slow jam of the news on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. "


BROOKS: Obama campaign is also using social media to reach out. They say they sent out more tweets in the weekend before the DNC than the entire election season in 2008. But 20-year-old Jean-Patrick Grillet, a volunteer at the convention, questions whether that's a good strategy. When North Carolinians were voting on expanding a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage earlier this year, it became all the buzz on social media.

JEAN-PATRICK GRILLET: And so, everybody is getting on Facebook and that's all they see. And they say to themselves, well, I don't have to vote. My 500 friends are going to vote for that. And then Amendment 1 passed. And it was a really, really sad day.

BROOKS: Grillet is a young white male voter. Analysts say his demographic is the most unpredictable this election. He says he's looking for honesty and strong stances. He watched the Republican convention in Tampa to see if the Republicans could sway him. But he didn't feel like they stood firm on issues he cared about. At the end of the day, it was President Obama's stand on gay rights that won him over.

GRILLET: I think I was undecided up until a few weeks ago. I was kind of holding out for Ron Paul to win the Republican ticket. But now that it's officially Romney against Obama, I'm definitely going Obama.

BROOKS: Most of the people I talked to were supporters of President Obama. But according to some people, the president still has work to do to convince the remaining up-in-the-air young voters.

When you stop young people outside of official youth events at the DNC, some express fears of lost momentum compared to 2008. Nineteen-year-old Rachelly Then sees it in her social circle.

RACHELLY THEN: The number of people that I know my age that are going to vote is way less than the people my age that I know that are not going to vote.

BROOKS: Then's friend, 21-year-old Merancia Fils, adds that there is a lack of urgency among her peers and a sense that political issues don't affect them yet. She says President Obama has to convey to them that he needs them.

MERANCIA FILS: Once he makes us aware that there is a need, then I feel like our generation will get more involved. We don't feel like there's a need.

BROOKS: But young voters make up close to 20 percent of the electorate. Analysts say they are still an important block. And in a close election, President Obama could need their votes to win.

For NPR News, I'm Bianca Brooks in Charlotte, North Carolina.


SIEGEL: That story was produced by Youth Radio.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.