New Polls Suggest Bush & Kerry Closely Divided Among Young Voters Strong Support seen for Outside Candidate, But Not Nader By Peter Bartlett
New polls released today by the Alliance for Next Generation Leadership suggest that President George W. Bush and presumptive Democratic nominee Senator John F. Kerry are running neck-and-neck among young voters. Among those polled aged 18-25, Bush led Kerry 47 percent to 45 percent.
Bush and Kerry maintained their positions when faced by independent candidate Ralph Nader. However, when other “outside” candidates were placed alongside Bush and Kerry, support for the mainstream candidates sagged. Both the President and Senator Kerry trailed several outside candidates, including “Clippy,” the Microsoft OfficeT Assistant/Paper-clip; Legolas the Elf from the Lord of the Rings trilogy; and both Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen.
“What this shows,” says Alliance spokesperson Nicole Hover, “is that the young vote is still very much up for grabs. People talk about swing states, but it is possible that ‘Generation Next’ could swing the entire election in one direction or the other.”
Prior to the 1992 Presidential election, Candidate Bill Clinton appeared on MTV, and played the saxophone on The Arsenio Hall Show. Pundits believe that this helped boost his credibility with younger voters, and gave his campaign a valuable surge. Do either the Kerry or Bush campaigns plan similar overtures?
A statement released by the Kerry campaign said, “In my career in the Senate, I have been a strong advocate for issues that affect young people, such as Medicare reform and renegotiating the NAFTA free trade agreement. I can identify with the struggles and travails confronting people of youth, since I myself was a young person at an earlier point in my life.”
During an afternoon press briefing, White House Spokesman Scott McClellan said, “the President has always had a strong affinity for young people. For anyone to suggest otherwise is subversive, and only strengthens the resolve of America’s enemies. The President feels great empathy for young people who fall prey to the temptations of alcohol and drugs, maybe because of trying to live up to the expectations of a prominent and successful father.” However, a senior White House spokesman, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the President and Vice President did not plan to focus much attention on young voters, because “our research indicates they have no money.”
The weakness of the candidates’ performances versus outside candidates suggests that they need to take action if they are to shore up support among the young, says political analyst Hayden Windblatt.
“Kerry snowboards, which is a major positive. To get a further nudge prior to the election, he might consider getting his eyebrow pierced, or making a cameo on Punk’d or Pimp My Ride.
“The President might consider connecting himself with a cultural event this summer. For instance, he could make a few passes in an F-16 over a Linkin Park concert, or appear in a Mountain Dew commercial.”
Windblatt sounded a note of caution for both campaigns about the prospects for an outside candidate. “If Clippy or one of the Olsen Twins throws his or her hat in the ring, all bets are off,” said Windblatt.
Alliance spokesperson Hover did point to one bright spot for both the Bush and Kerry campaigns: ignorance and apathy among young voters.
“78 percent of the young people we polled did not know they had to register in order to vote. Among those polled, 64 percent believed they could vote ‘anywhere Lotto tickets are sold.’ And 42 percent thought that by participating in our poll, they were, in fact, voting in the election.”
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