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The Divide & Conquer Election of 2012


Edited By Dianne G. Bystrom, Mary C. Banwart and Mitchell S. McKinney

alieNATION presents research conducted by a national election team and leading scholars in political communication that explores a range of important topics and variables affecting voter attitudes and behavior in the 2012 U.S. presidential election.
In exploring the messages, issues, and voters of the 2012 election, these studies employ multiple methods including experimental design, content analysis, rhetorical criticism, and survey research. Whereas other election research tends to investigate either the content or effects of campaign communication, the more comprehensive and systematic nature of this collection enables alieNATION to cohere thematically around considerations of voter alienation, political engagement, political efficacy, and ultimately, citizens’ voting decisions.
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Chapter Fourteen: Defying Expectations: Young Citizens’ Political Attitudes and Participation in the 2012 Election


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A prediction heard frequently before the 2012 presidential election was that young citizens who had supported Barack Obama in large numbers in 2008 were somehow now “disillusioned” with the political process and would “not turn out to carry Obama to victory again” (Frosch & Peyron, 2012, para. 1). Just days before the November 2012 election, the Institute of Politics at Harvard University reported in its “Survey of Young Americans’ Attitudes Toward Politics” a number of indicators that foretold the almost certain decline in young citizens’ electoral participation (McKenna, 2012). Specifically, the Harvard study pointed to a 16% decrease in youth voter registration from 2008 and a substantial decrease in young citizens reporting they were “definitely voting” (at 48% in 2012 down from 66% in 2008). Yet, despite widespread predictions to the contrary, young voters (18 to 29 year olds) delivered a relatively strong performance on Election Day and one that some have argued was decisive in the re-election of President Obama.

Although, overall, the youth vote did decline slightly from 2008 (with 45% turnout, down 6% from their 51% participation in 2008) and Obama’s support from young voters also declined just slightly in 2012 (as he netted 60% of the 18-to-29-year-old vote in 2012 compared to his 66% in 2008), voting among all ages in 2012 actually declined with 62% of all eligible voters participating in the November election (down from 64% in...

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