In the State of the Union address on Tuesday evening, President Obama touched on several issues that might have pricked the ears of his young supporters who were instrumental in getting him re-elected.
According to CIRCLE, young black and Hispanic women provided the strongest support for President Obama among young voters in 2012. Young black male voters also heavily supported the president, although more of them voted Republican than in 2008.
Youth Radio wanted to know if young African American and Hispanic voters feel like the president is living up to their expectations and including their priorities in his second term agenda.
Jessica Brown, National Black Youth Vote! Coordinator, a national grassroots coalition that works to increase political and civic engagement among black youth, said that she saw lots of youth civic engagement on social media before the 2012 election, and that engagement continues to show itself on social media and blogs.
“In the new year, we’re seeing lots of activity still, especially on Facebook. We want to keep that going,” she said. According to Brown, she sees young people contacting their legislators to fight for things they care about like jobs and gun control.“You have to hold peoples’ feet to the fire,” she said.
Brown says that since the election, young black voters are still very concerned with jobs. “It’s something that is all around. It comes up in everything... but it’s up to us to push it. Hey, this is our issue,” she said. One thing that the president will push for this year, might be interesting for young people aiming to land entry level jobs. He’s asking congress to raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour, from $7.25.
Brown has also seen activity among young people on Facebook joining the discussion on gun control and gun violence. She says they are taking the initiative to research laws and specific cases in their state. President Obama concluded his State of the Union speech with a strong plea for a vote on gun control reform.
Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have been good tools for Brown and her team to engage young people, and for the young people to create solidarity amongst each other, she said. During the election, young people used Twitter to share frustrating situations on voting day, like long lines or being rejected from the polls because of identification problems.
Like gun control and jobs, voting is another area that the president says he’ll address. He announced in his State of the Union address that he would set up a special commission to eliminate voting barriers. Since the speech, this proposal has been widely criticized, according to the Washington Post. Conservatives say that the president is stepping on the rights of the states, while others say a commission is not a strong enough action.
Voting barriers aside, voting experts say that the high turnout among young voters is the new normal. And organizations like Black Youth Vote! are seeing signs that young voters are staying engaged between elections as well.
This article was originally posted on youthradio.org on February 15, 2013.