At times, the 2008 Presidential election campaign has been ugly. On top of the unfortunately commonplace personal character attacks in modern politics, Barack Obama's entrance into the global political theater has also shoved the issue of race into the spotlight.
Although the mainstream media proclaim the significance of race in the mind's of voters, I have always felt like today's youth were unaffected and unbiased. I decided to take a survey of more than 400 of today's young men and women: nearly half between 18 and 24 and the other half older than 24, from more than 25 states. As of September, 92% of the survey pool was registered to vote and 96% said they planned on voting. As it turns out, their responses proved my hypothesis correct: for today's youth, race is not an issue.
When asked outright as to whether race would have an effect on their vote for the next president, 89% said no. However, 76% stated that they thought race would have a heavy impact on the decision of other voters. So, interestingly, while they seemed to have confidence in their own decision to remain unaffected by the allegations of racial undertones cast out by the media, this confidence was not shared in others. It's as if today's youth realize the diversity of their voting block and the need for them to remain neutral to frivolous political banter. It's almost as if they're saying: "If not us, who will be the voice of reason?"
Nearly everyone surveyed, an overwhelming 98%, said they had no problem voting for a candidate of a different race than their own. Rather than focusing on the cosmetic details, younger generations are focusing on the attributes of the candidates that should be on forefront of the minds of all voters: qualifications, experience, and character. While 31% did say that ethnicity will be a reason why voters may vote against Obama, nearly the same amount (29%) said that his qualifications would also effect voters' decisions.
Still, regardless of what other voters will focus on come November 4th, young people are positive-minded and hopeful. They see the diversity of this year's electoral race as an advantage for the United States' position in the global community. The logic is subtle yet simple: not only will the world gain respect for Obama should he become a great leader, they will have respect for us as Americans for shattering barriers and electing someone for the right reasons. Undistracted by the hatred and bigotry, young people are having serious discussions about qualifications and experience. There are now generations of young people in America (and all over the world) who have come to understand and respect cultural and ethnic differences; and they're unafraid to be public about it.
Although one person surveyed felt that "some countries may be racist" when viewing a black man as President of the United States, most felt that our posture in international relations "will improve significantly" and "in a positive way".
As one respondent said, "the world will see that we've finally come out of the Dark Ages and maybe some Americans aren't so narrow minded after all... Electing Obama will help the US to regain international respect and credibility."
In fact, one person got straight to the point, saying that "other countries don't have the same racial hangups we have in the US." The overall sentiment is clear, "Americans, especially under Bush, have been perceived as arrogant, ill-informed and moronic." American youth are yearning for a leader with a "fresh perspective."
It's important to note that not everyone we surveyed supports Obama's candidacy; but still, the "reasoning not to vote for him has nothing to do with his skin color." Instead of entertaining mindless arguments about the racial implications of the election, young people want to know what the candidates "can do for the people to better our nation." Besides, whether you are supporting Obama or McCain, "what a person looks like has nothing to do with how he handles a situation." Well said.