Youthquake: Election, Media, and the Young Voter

Youthquake: Election, Media, and the Young Voter

Background Essay

In their book Generations, authors William Strauss and Neil Howe came up with the term "Millennial Generation" to describe those born in the eighties and nineties, a group that now represents more than seventy-five million Americans. This makes the Millennials the largest generation in United States history, trumping even the Baby Boomers. The Millennials' sheer numbers have never been more significant than in 2008, a historic election year that finds young people responding to a candidate, Democrat Barack Obama, with a fervor perhaps not seen since the days of Ronald Reagan. 

One cannot understate the importance of new media in this contest, and the Obama campaign has utilized the web to much success. Thanks largely to social-networking outreach as well as blogs and online videos that spread information and raise awareness among voters, the eighteen-to-twenty-nine set came out in droves for this year's primaries and caucuses. The general election, however, is truly their day to shine. Pundits and pollsters predict record under-thirty turnout, but this is a demographic that has failed to materialize in the past, as George McGovern and Howard Dean can attest. For the first time since eighteen-year-olds were granted the right to cast a ballot, youth voter participation has increased for two election cycles in a row—in 2004 and again in 2006. 

If they get to the voting booths, young voters could determine the next president of the United Sates. As we look back at November 4, the question we will pose to our panelists is: Did all of the hype actually pay off for either campaign?

Panelist Biographies

Anna Greenberg is a prominent Democratic pollster and the senior vice president of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, one of America's leading strategic consulting firms. She has polled extensively for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and many nonprofit organizations that focus primarily on youth and women's health, including NARAL Pro-Choice America and Women's Voices, in addition to and the Human Rights Campaign. Ms. Greenberg previously taught at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, served as a visiting scholar at the Pew Research Center, and has appeared on MSNBC, CNN, NPR, and the BBC. She currently works as a research fellow at American University's Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies.        

Eric Hysen is a sophomore at Harvard University, where he served as the student chair of, a website run by the Harvard Institute of Politics. The site sought to bring students across the country together to share their opinions about the 2008 election by way of short videos and blog entries posted to social-networking hubs such as Facebook and Myspace. Through these channels, CampusVoices utilized the power of user-generated content to bring political news to mass numbers of students who may not have otherwise been interested.

Scott Keeter is an author and director of survey research for the Pew Research Center. His books include A New Engagement? Political Participation, Civic Life, and the Changing American Citizen and Uninformed Choice: The Failure of the New Presidential Nominating System. Mr. Keeter has spent nearly thirty years analyzing the exit polls on election night for NBC News and has chaired the Standards Committee of the American Association for Public Research as well as George Mason University's Department of Public and International Affairs.

Chris Rovzar is a Senior Online Editor of His duties include cowriting and editing entries in the award-winning Daily Intel blog, which covers politics, entertainment, and regional news. In addition to contributing to the print edition of New York, Mr. Rovzar has been published in the Advocate, the New York Sun and the Huffington Post and can frequently be seen on the Fox News program Red Eye w/ Greg Gutfeld as well as VH1’s The Fabulous Life.

Tiffany Wilson graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in 2007, and joined the team shortly thereafter. As a journalist with Palestra, an online network of college reporters covering the news on over 100 U.S. campuses, Ms. Wilson spent fifteen months on the campaign trail, filing stories on state primaries, the Democratic and Republican National Conventions and the impact students had on getting out the vote. According to Ms. Wilson, it was "all in an effort to help young people understand politics and older people understand a young person’s role and perspective on the election." 

Katharine Zaleski has been the Huffington Post’s Senior News Editor since the website launched in May 2005. Before joining HuffPo, Ms. Zaleski worked for CNN and has appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, Air America, and BBC Radio among other media outlets.

Jeff Greenfield (moderator) is an Emmy-award winning reporter who has served as the senior political correspondent for CBS News since May of 2007. Previously, he was a political and media analyst for CNN as well as ABC News. Mr. Greenfield is highly revered for his political insight, and has covered every national political convention, either as a floor reporter or an anchor analyst, since 1988. He was twice named to TV Guide’s All-Star team as best political commentator and was called “the best in the business” by the Washington Journalism Review. Mr. Greenfield is the author or coauthor of eleven books including his most recent, Oh, Waiter! One Order of Crow! a first-person account of the madness that followed the contested 2000 election.