The 2008 US Presidential Election and Youth Activism: Digital Technologies as Grassroots Empowerment or Elite Control?
The 2008 U.S. presidential election was exceptional for a few reasons. The two most notable perhaps were that for the fi rst time an African American was voted into offi ce, and it was also arguably the fi rst “social media” election given the role of the Internet and other new digital technologies. For example, 39% of Americans said they had watched online political videos (candidate debates, speeches, and announcements), triple the rate from 2004, and 46% reported that they used the Internet, e-mail, and texting to get news about the campaign, share their views, and mobilize others (Smith and Rainie 2008). The proportion of Americans who stated that they regularly learned about the campaign from the Internet more than doubled since 2000-from 9% to 24%, and 42% of those 18-29 reported that they learned about the campaign from the Internet, which was triple the percentage for any news source (Kohut 2008). There was also a signifi - cant revival of the youth vote, as the 18-29 block turned out in the highest numbers in over thirty-fi ve years. Citizens within this age group went to the polls in numbers exceeding any election since 1972, and 66% of them voted for Obama (Drehle 2008). Whereas overall Democratic turnout increased 90% from 2004, the number of young Democrats participating soared 135% (Von Drehle 2008).