How To Keep Young Voters Around Young people came out in large numbers to vote for President-elect Barack Obama. More than 65 percent cast their vote for the Democratic candidate.
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How To Keep Young Voters Around

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How To Keep Young Voters Around

How To Keep Young Voters Around

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

Young people came out in large numbers to vote for President-elect Barack Obama. More than 65 percent cast their vote for the Democratic candidate. NPR's Audie Cornish spoke to young voters about whether the Democratic Party can keep them there.

AUDIE CORNISH: Exit polls show that young voters basically care about the same issues as the rest of the electorate. Listen here to 25-year-old Terrence Morrison(ph), an electrical engineer from Charlotte, North Carolina, and 27-year-old software developer Conan Morgan(ph) of Raleigh.

Mr. TERRENCE MORRISON (Electrical Engineer): Of course, the economy is number one for me.

Mr. CONAN MORGAN (Software Developer): The war - you know, we're in the midst of two foreign wars.

CORNISH: But as they're becoming more influential, these voters are looking to push some other issues higher on the agenda.

Ms. JENNIFER WADSWORTH(ph) (Student): Environmental policies and increasing sustainability, sustainability in business.

Mr. JEREMY COLLINS(ph) (Death Penalty Reform Activist): Human rights and social justice.

CORNISH: That's 19-year-old student Jennifer Wadsworth and 29-year-old Jeremy Collins, a death penalty reform activist, of Raleigh and Durham respectively. We met with these young Democrats here at Player's Retreat. It's a pub and political hangout in Raleigh. It's the kind of place where men in political baseball caps puff pipes over beers next to pearl-wearing coeds shooting pool. And it's located in the kind of university town that helped turn the county and the state blue for the first time in three decades. But whether Democrats hold onto the infusion of support will be a challenge with the next generation that isn't so interested in labels. Here's Conan Morgan.

Mr. MORGAN: We look at it as being able to get some things done regardless of what your party affiliation is. We don't care about if you're a Republican or Democrat. As long as our economy gets better, you could have been an independent for all I care.

CORNISH: Researchers say Ronald Reagan was the last candidate to capture the youth vote so decisively when he got 59 percent of young voters in 1984. And that generation of supporters has been with the GOP ever since. In order for Democrats to do the same, or for Republicans to get another crack at them, this group has a few suggestions. The first, diversify. They have.

Mr. MORGAN: I see four African-American males sitting here and one white female. If you're going to - oh, I'm sorry.

Unidentified Man: (Unintelligible)

Mr. MORGAN: My brown brother over here.

CORNISH: And the party should too, says Jeremy Collins.

Mr. COLLINS: If you're going to engage a diverse group of people for life, creating lifetime Democrats, then we're going to have to, you know, not only talk about social programs and talk about a government of inclusiveness, but we have to start diversifying the ranks of our party. And we have to start including people in the decision-making process and not just engaging them for a vote.

CORNISH: Second, says 29-year-old John Ferdajo(ph), a state environmental office worker, be honest.

Mr. JOHN FERDAJO (Environmental Office Worker): Don't make a promise and say, I'm going to lower gas prices by two bucks in the next six months, and it doesn't get done. I mean, we understand the challenges because most of the Republicans got kicked out of office not so much of their policy, but because of the dishonesty of the last eight years.

CORNISH: And lastly, the generation who raised its political voice via Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube values access above all says Jennifer Wadsworth.

Ms. WADSWORTH: I think people in the upper rungs of the party have a lot to learn from Obama and his staff and how they managed their campaign. It's like they were connecting with voters and looking for things that were personally engaging. It was like the closest thing to having an actual conversation with Obama and his staff.

CORNISH: Just as the party adapted and expanded for the boomer generation, these voters expect Democrats to make room if they want to keep them.

Mr. FARDAJO: The mandate is, if you want our vote, then you got to change. We will not be the party of 1965 in 2008. You've got to change, and this is the first step towards it.

CORNISH: And while all of these young voters agree that they have high expectations for the next president, they say they have even higher ones for themselves. Audie Cornish, NPR News, Raleigh, North Carolina.

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