Young voter cynicism could return Omaha to red
September 22nd, 2011
Omaha, NE – Omaha sent its one electoral vote to President Barack Obama in 2008, and an enthusiastic base of young, first-time voters helped to send it to the White House. But since the election, that enthusiasm has become more of a mix of cynicism and some tempered hopefulness. KVNO News talked to young voters in the city to find out just what theyâ€™re looking for in 2012.
â€œI voted for Obama in 2008 because I thought he would be representative of change,â€ said Mark Utterback, a twenty-seven year old from Omaha, who drove to Council Bluffs this week for a town hall with Congressman Ron Paul.Paul is running as a libertarian candidate for the Republican nomination. And Utterback said he is so disappointed with Obama that Paul is the only candidate he feels he can support.
â€œSo far itâ€™s been much of the same,â€ he said. â€œHeâ€™s expanded the wars, heâ€™s kept the Patriot Act, heâ€™s kept Guantanamo open, heâ€™s bailed out the banks, heâ€™s had lobbyists in his administration, which is everything he was against. So I think a lot of young people are looking for legitimate change.â€
â€œWell, it tells you what they were looking for and apparently have not found in President Obama,â€ said Dr. Loree Bykerk, a professor of political science at the University of Nebraska Omaha.
â€œWe know from research that younger people, especially if they first became politically attentive with the Obama candidacy, itâ€™s not surprising for that attachment not to be very durable,â€ she said. â€œBut it is surprising if they would go from one end of the political spectrum to the other.â€
One reason they might be taking that disappointment to the opposite end of the political spectrum is a search for authenticity. Andrew Post, a 21-year-old from Omaha who also attended the town hall, said Paul is candid, and communicates in a way he can relate to.
â€œOne of the biggest reasons is heâ€™s all about alternative media,â€ he said. â€œAnd thatâ€™s a lot of internet, and a lot of younger folks are basically getting all their news from alternative media, because we want to hear the right stuff. We donâ€™t want to hear what somebody getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to speak of some candidate whoâ€™s just blowing whistles.â€
Loree Bykerk said young people have been disappointed in President Obama because he hasnâ€™t delivered on some promises: like changing the tone in Washington and getting the troops out of Iraq more quickly.But she said that reflects some naÃ¯vetÃ© among young voters, who expect the President to be able to push through opposition that can be very powerful. But, Bykerk said, whatâ€™s more concerning is the cynicism that seems to have sprouted among once-hopeful voters.
â€œTheyâ€™ve kind of whiplashed from that hopeful draw of 2008 to being very cynical,â€ she said. â€œI donâ€™t know where that leads us as a country but it concerns me. I think itâ€™s something we need to pay attention to.â€
But on the University of Nebraska-Omaha campus, there are some Obama voters who retain their hopefulness, although it is somewhat tempered.
â€œI will definitely vote for him (Obama) again, because I think he deserves a second chance,â€ said Brittany Redden, a journalism major at UNO.
â€œA lot of other presidents have been given second terms, and sort of done better the second time around,â€ she said. â€œAnd I think not giving him a second chance is kind of unfair.â€
Redden said authenticity is important, but that doesnâ€™t necessarily mean a candidate is best-suited for the job. Ultimately, she said, sheâ€™s looking for direction.
â€œI guess maybe compared to 2008, weâ€™re maybe more cynical and maybe have a little more bleak outlook,â€ she said. â€œBut I think weâ€™re still hopeful, I think weâ€™re still are excited about an election.â€
â€œI think we are a little confused and we just need guidance, and whoever can provide that would be rewarded.â€
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