(This was originally published on November 1, 2008 – before the election)
Most pundits acknowledge that the likely Presidential election victory for Senator Barack Obama will be aided by the massive turnout of young voters. I think that part of this is due to the fact that the Millenials, or Generation Y, are more globally aware than previous generations.
Today, more American high school and college students study abroad than ever before.Study abroad at the university level has become mainstream, and its trickling down to the high school level. Global Leadership Adventures offers international travel programs for high school students to learn about different cultures and volunteer in Africa, Asia and Latin America.This increased global awareness is having an effect on politics.
When the McCain campaign tried to scare the public by constantly showing a photo of Obama in traditional Kenyan clothing, it backfired on Gen Y.Instead of being scared of other cultures, Gen Y-ers are respectful and culturally sensitive.Many became interested in going to Kenya to visit the town where Obama’s father was from.
The generational gap between the two campaigns is clear.85% of Global Leadership Adventures students have Facebook profiles.But its not just technology that separates the campaigns – it’s the world view that comes with it.High school students use social networks to interact with people from around the world and with people from different faiths.
This could be one of the reasons that the ‘Obama is a secret Muslim’ rumor failed to get traction with the globally aware Milennials. Many students’ reaction was, ‘its clear Obama is not a Muslim.But so what if a person is a Muslim? So what?’”
The trend in rising numbers of students studying aboard shows no sign of slowing down.Therefore, political campaigns need to take into account the impact of a generation of globally-minded, politically active, highly educated students on the political discourse.
I believe that this could be the last Presidential campaign where tactics like Kenyan clothing or non-Christian religions will be widely used in an effort to scare voters.The youth vote will be too worldly to fall for that – or at least I hope Global Leadership Adventures students will be.