CN November 22, 2012

The exit polls and political analysis from Nov. 6 all seem to agree that younger voters played a key role in Barack Obama’s re-election. It was a bit unexpected – the conventional wisdom was that younger voters were turned off and would take a pass.

So we convened a panel of four Chicagoans, aged 20-25, to talk a little politics. Turns out three of the four voted, and Dakota Loesch (25), who didn’t,  considered non-voting a valid political choice.

His decision stems, he says, from a specific instance when he was growing up — the Gore vs. Bush debacle.

Cristina Perez (25), who’s an Elections in Action Director at Mikva Challenge, told him it was “time to get over it.” There are too many local issues, she said, where a few votes can make a  big difference.

Dakota also got push-back from Katherine Iorio (21), a Columbia College journalism student, who writes for Chicago Talks and Chicago Phoenix:  “It’s just so shocking to see so many people in our age group who are like– ‘ Well my vote doesn’t matter, what’s the point of going out and voting?'” Katherine told Dakota: “It’s sad. It’s like for women, African-Americans, for all of us — we’ve fought for that chance TO vote and then you’re not taking that opportunity.”

Paris Jackson(21), attends De Paul University and works with an advisory group recommending policies to Mayor Emanuel, says a lot of younger minorities voted because they were energized by what was perceived as an effort by the Republicans to suppress the vote. But he says he knows plenty of young people who voted simply because they think it’s their duty.

While we have them at the table, we ask them about lifestyle issues. Each of them still shops in the brick-and mortar world, and they each had purchased some of their clothes in stores. They still watch conventional TV, although they do watch a lot of programming on-line. That’s especially important to Katherine Iorio, who is also an investigative reporting intern at WBBM TV.

Newspapers – not so much. And radio? They listen to public radio, and occasionally to commercial music radio, but not too often.  And Paris doesn’t own a free-standing radio at all.  Music is mostly on line, and Dakota, who’s a musician with  Animal City, says he’s absolutely fine with people stealing his music on-line.

“I hope so. God willing. Pass it around, please,” says Dakota.

It’s a fun visit, but there’s a serious underlying statistic. Today, there are 46 million eligible voters between 18-29, and there are about 39 million seniors eligible to vote. The seniors vote in huge numbers, of course, but if younger voters ever got serious they could start to run the country.


About Ken

Ken's the host of Chicago Newsroom. A former news director, reporter and radio program host, he's also a past Vice President of the Chicago Headline Club.
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