By Sharon Lin
The race to the presidency is heating up in the months approaching the final election.
With presidential debates coming up, as well as continued efforts to stir up enthusiasm for the Democratic, Republican or third-party candidates, strategies have become rather fluid.
Nonetheless, there is a clear push among the major presidential candidates toward youth involvement, aimed especially at the Millennial age group.
1. Social media campaigns.
It’s no surprise that politics are tapping into social media channels. Even individuals who grew up in the pre-internet age have caught on to the popularity of mainstream media.
The 18- to 28-year-old age range is highly active on social media, and for politicians, online activity is almost as important as speeches and rallies these days.
All candidates must have a Facebook page, a well-designed website, and active accounts on Twitter, Instagram and other platforms.
With countless potential voters receiving their initial biases and perspectives from the social media accounts of their friends, even the providers of such services have caught on.
Whether they’re employing a social media strategist to manage the Twitter analytics or hiring an entire IT team to create apps and websites for campaigns, our presidential candidates are more aware than ever before of the need to catch up to the digital age.
2. Pop culture references.
Pop culture references are crucial for appealing to today’s youth. In the beginning of this year’s election, many presidential candidates took advantage of this.
For example, Republican Party candidate Ben Carson created a rap ad in an effort to appeal to a younger audience. Likely inspired by the persistence of viral content online, his campaign team worked with artist Aspiring Mogul to overlay lyrics from the rap with clips from his past speeches.
3. Emphasizing diversity.
The youngest generations are the most diverse America has ever known. As a result, the demand for more inclusive campaigns is quickly catching on, as a lack of diversity has caused rifts in the political campaigns of many unsuccessful candidates thus far.
The Millennial generation is more aware than ever of issues such as women’s rights, foreign policy, racism and LGBTQ+ rights. As a result, some politicians have been tapping into their support for events such as pride marches.
4. Talking about social issues relevant to youth.
This election is seeing huge numbers of youth activists flock to the polls. Even those who are not yet able to vote participate in the electoral hype to bring to the table their own views on the issues.
The politician who has done the most to attract young people is Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, who Politico called “the epicenter of a political youth movement more powerful than any we have seen since the 1960s.”
He led the races by more than 35% among Millennials, despite being 74 years old.
One major reason, as stated by the Wall Street Journal, is that he highlights the greatest issue facing young Americans — financial security.
Poverty and college debt are an enormous concern for the younger generations.
With pressure to juggle healthcare, educational tuition and job security, Sanders’ forceful campaign to start a political revolution has certainly been heard.
Other politicians have been influenced by his momentum, shifting their own platforms to appeal to the outspoken young population.
5. Treating youth like people.
As 20-year-old Nate White put it in an article for International Business Times, “Whipping and [doing the] Nae Nae on ‘Ellen’ just comes off as really ‘ugh’ to a lot of us.
We look at that and we’re like, ‘Could you not? Could you just treat us as if we’re real human beings?’”
Many candidates have been conducting outreach toward the Millennial crowd, drawing them into their campaigns in an attempt to gain a better vantage point on youth views.
Whether it is participating as a volunteer for a political campaign, working for a major political party or even lobbying for their stances in social issues, the movement toward youth activism is strong, and politicians have been taking notice.
While not every method for political outreach is successful, at the very least, youth apathy is starting to crumble.
Young people are starting to take on leadership roles. Some, such as the youngest Hillary delegate at the Democratic National Convention earlier this year, are even too young to vote.
We’re seeing 25-year-olds such as Erin Schrode running alongside incumbents, and inspiring scores of youth in the meantime.
We’re seeing a rise in organizations that are petitioning to lower the age required for leadership at higher levels of government.
It’s clear that the youth are our future, and perhaps that future is coming faster than we thought. It might be wise to start paying attention early.