The Young Vote: Engaging America’s Youth in the 2008 Elections and Beyond

Nearly one quarter of eligible American voters is between ages 18 to 30. According to Harvard’s Institute of Politics, many young voters are not yet well defined along party lines—nearly two out of five 18 to 24 year olds identify themselves as “independent.” While the lack of party affiliation may prevent many young voters from voting in the primaries, the large number of independents makes the youth vote unpredictable when played out in the general election.

Many young people believe that the 2008 presidential candidates have not yet tried very hard to engage them, though young people offer a significant source of vitality and grass-roots organizing ability, as well as votes. Presidential candidates should carefully consider this young demographic as they decide how to allocate their time and resources in the months ahead.


Presidential candidates and their campaigns—and Presidents—should make concerted efforts to:

  • Address the policies and issues of key concern to younger Americans
  • Hold events that specifically speak to and target young citizens
  • Provide an opportunity for young people to ask them questions through websites, in-person forums, and town hall meetings
  • Widen the base of young people participating in campaign activities, fundraisers, and events and provide volunteer opportunities for a greater number of youth
  • Continue to involve young adults and seek their opinions in creative ways once in office and
  • Leverage the “new media”—the internet, social networking web sites, and mobile phone networks—for all of these efforts

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Opportunity 08 aims to help 2008 presidential candidates and the public focus on critical issues facing the nation, presenting policy ideas on a wide array of domestic and foreign policy questions. The project is committed to providing both independent policy solutions and background material on issues of concern to voters.