Young voters seek integrity not experience in next US president

October 17th, 2008 - 10:24 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Oct 17 (IANS) Contrary to conventional wisdom, young American voters between the ages of 18 and 34 rank experience low among the qualities they want in the next US president, according to a new study.Despite the overwhelming emphasis on experience and age throughout the campaign, these qualities mean little to young adults, said the MTV Networks’ new study, “The Election Effect: Issues Shaping Young Voters Now and Beyond November.”

With both the Democrats and Republicans fielding a combination of experience and youth in Barack Obama and Joe Biden and John McCain and Sarah Palin, the issues of experience, age, race and gender have emerged as the key themes in the Nov 4 presidential election

“The Election Effect study paints a picture of how the campaign has shaped young voters’ thinking on some of its most prominent themes, and what’s clear is that young Americans value leadership and vision far more than they do experience,” said Judy McGrath, Chairman and CEO, MTV Networks.

“This generation has watched Marc Zuckerberg, LeBron James and Carrie Underwood break convention and shoot from anonymity to celebrity overnight. To young Americans, ’shortcutting’ is cool,” said Colleen Fahey Rush, Executive Vice President of Strategic Insights and Research, MTV Networks.

When asked to choose the most important factor in determining whether someone is ready to be president, 78 percent of young voters chose “leadership qualities” and “vision” over “proven experience in government” or the time a candidate has spent “learning the ropes and the issues.”

For supporters of Obama and McCain alike, experience ranked 11th out of 12 characteristics young voters want in the next president. Integrity is the true threshold characteristic that all young voters want and respect.

Asked to sum up what they wanted in the next president in just one word, integrity was ranked 87 on a scale of 100. Security, change and openness scored 80 followed by innovation and optimism at 77 each. Patriotism, unity, progressive, and caring came next with 76 and experience (69) and conservative (51) brought up the rear.

With Obama and McCain separated by the largest age difference of any two presidential candidates in American history, age has been a prominent point of discussion throughout the campaigns.

Yet, the majority of 18-to-34 year-old voters are unfazed by the age difference, with 60 percent saying one’s age does not make a candidate more or less qualified for the presidency.

Young voters see the candidacy of Barack Obama as having a transformational event for the dynamics of race in the United States.

According to The Election Effect, 57 percent of all young voters, and 69 percent of African American voters, say that an African American being the presidential nominee of one of the two major parties signals a major step forward for the country that will have a lasting impact.

Young voters see the same historic significance in the achievements of Obama ’s one time rival Hillary Clinton and McCain’s running mate Sarah Palin as well, albeit to a lesser extent.

Of those surveyed, 47 percent of all respondents, and 49 percent of young women, think that having a woman come close to winning Democratic party’s nomination and a woman Republican vice presidential nominee signals a major step forward for the country.

America’s young voters are also very in tune to the current economic crisis, according to the study. When asked what change they would like to see come out of this election, young voters volunteered economic answers by a factor of better than two to one over any other issues.

Yet despite their anxiety, The Election Effect reveals an overall optimism among this group, with 61 percent of young voters saying that this election is a chance to elect someone who can really make a difference in changing and improving their own lives and their own futures.

And regardless of their political allegiances, few young voters say they will be “depressed and disillusioned” if their candidate does not win.

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