Young Religious Voters Notable Player in Swing States

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    (Photo: AP Images / Chris Carlson, File)
    In this May 23, 2008 file photo, supporters cheer for then Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., at a rally in Sunrise, Fla.
By Jennifer Riley, Christian Post Reporter
August 14, 2008|2:56 pm

Young religious voters could be the determining factor in several swing states in this November election, a prominent political science with expertise in religion and politics said.

In the swing states of Ohio, Missouri and Colorado, religious young voters have the potential to give the win to either Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama or Republican rival John McCain, said John C. Green, director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at The University of Akron in Ohio, according to Fox News.

“These ‘battleground states’ are good reflections of the nation as a whole,” Green, who is also senior fellow with the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, explained. “The youth vote - both religious and non-religious - are likely to show the same patterns at the national level. If they [religious youth] can have an impact nationally, they will have an impact in the battleground states.”

In the last two elections, George W. Bush won narrow victories in the battleground states of Colorado, Missouri and Ohio. Given these slim margin of vote differences, Green noted, the religious youth votes have the potential to tip the scales in these important states.

There are more than 4 million practicing Christian, Jew, and Muslim youth that are qualified to vote on Nov. 4. Young evangelicals made up about 20 percent of the overall youth vote in the last election.

But it is difficult to predict who the young religious voters will cast their ballots for. Many young voters express this year that they want to move beyond hot-button issues such as abortion and gay “marriage,” although for many these are still high priorities, and expand the agenda to social justice issues, like poverty and torture.

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As a result, young faith-based voters cannot be predicted to vote for the Republican Party as in the past, and many are opting to be independent voters.

"In three decades I've never seen this sort of student-youth involvement," said Jim Wallis, author of the best-seller The Great Awakening, according to The Associated Press. "I do think there's a major shift under way."

"They're leaving the Republican Party in droves, but they're not automatically Democrats," Wallis said. "They're not going to jump in the pocket of the Democratic Party the way they did with the Republican Party."

In order to court these young voters, supporters of the campaigns are using popular youth-oriented social networks, such as Facebook, to present their candidate to this critical voting bloc.

Obama has a Facebook forum called “Christians for Obama,” while McCain has his group of “Christians for McCain.”

In 2000, about 40 percent of registered voters age 18 to 29 voted. In 2004, the youth vote turnout increased to 49 percent, or 20.9 million young voters, according to Fox. Overall, the youth vote made up 16 percent of the overall count in 2004.

 

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