Young Wild and Free, How Four Presidential Candidates Relate to Young Voters

Posted: January 11, 2016 | By: Evan Guest Tagged: Blog

Photo Credit: Nicole Dohm

When we think of communicating with young people, many adults, including presidential candidates, believe they have to indulge themselves in pop culture to secure the youth vote. But, playing a Taylor Swift song or using social media is not a guaranteed way to lock up the young voting bloc. As emphasis on the youth vote increases four presidential candidates have begun to utilize four different tactics to appeal to the younger generation.

Every candidate is active on social media platforms, such as Twitter and Snapchat to spread the word and connect with voters. Some candidates use it to promote a positive message, while others use it as a tool to attack their opponents.

In the past week, we have traveled across the state attending political rallies, and absorbing the messages that each candidate sends. As a part of the youth voting bloc, the issues that resonate the most are college affordability and the job market.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders uses his platform to attract young voters.

“We have a real tragedy with youth unemployment,” Sanders said at a Town Hall Meeting at the Iowa State Fair Grounds on Jan. 9, 2016. “What about as a nation we invest in jobs and education for our kids rather than jails and incarceration.”

While he doesn’t resemble the youth vote whatsoever, his emphasis on issues that are salient to them has brought a large following around Iowa and the country.


Photo Credit: Evan Guest

Republican candidate, Rand Paul appeals to young generations by hosting events that are targeted toward them, such as his birthday bash at Buzzard Billy’s on Thursday, Jan. 7 2016. You can watch the celebration here. He said at a meet and greet in New Liberty, Iowa, “We are also are particularly emphasizing college, we’ve been to Drake, we’ve been to a lot of colleges, and we are going to continue doing that.” 


Photo Credit: Madi Holmes

A candidate whose hoping the youth vote will help him gain some much needed traction is former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. The Governor has held a mix of campaign events in recent days, most notably, an event at Carl’s, a local bar in Des Moines, last week. He broke out his guitar and discussed politics with young voters. O’Malley frequently uses his guitar to set himself apart from other candidates in hopes that the relaxed atmosphere will avoid Bad Blood.

Donald Trump is another Republican candidate who is capitalizing on the youth vote. At his rally in Ottumwa, Iowa, on Jan. 8, 2016, vendors braced the cold as they sold humorous buttons and other merchandise meant to appeal to young voters. The merchandise appealed to the younger generation through cat memes and quotes.

Young voters have become a crucial part of the upcoming caucuses, as seen by the candidates continued emphasis of the youth vote. From hosting events to singing T.Swift’s latest hit, candidates are utilizing a variety of tactics and agendas to reach the key voting bloc.

Evan is a Sophomore Marketing and Strategic Political Communications Major at Drake University

Nicole Dohm, Nick Frandsen, Madi Holmes and Lauren Stanton contributed to this article.