Face it - student voters may go by the book

by Beacon Staff • October 29, 2008

Are you a member of the group "Alaska Against Sarah Palin"? Or maybe you are a fan of "McCain/Palin '08 (One Million Strong for the Mavericks)." There is only one place where all of these people and all of these ideas can share space. Facebook groups have been around almost as long as the social networking site, but there are mixed views on campuses as to what role these groups have played in the upcoming election.

Sophia Kwong, a 23-year-old alumna of the University of Texas, Austin, is an administrator for one of the Barack Obama groups.

"The Obama campaign has revolutionized elections-he has truly run a 21st century campaign and utilized all the tools and resources available to him. As far as the groups go, it's viral campaigning at its best," Kwong said in a Facebook message.

Performing a Facebook search of the words Barack Obama, John McCain, Sarah Palin or Joe Biden will lead to over 500 hits, for groups alone. These groups vary from serious campaigning groups, like "Swing State Voters for Barack Obama/Biden" to more comical groups, like "Joe Biden is a Pimp." Whether these groups are influencing voters or not, they are attracting students to join and to profess a public statement of their political views.

Dave Fink, a 20-year-old acting major, joined the Facebook group "What's your favorite Palin child name?" But he said he felt the groups were not really valuable tools in the campaigns.

"I joined the group because I thought it was funny because Sarah Palin is, in my opinion, an idiot," Fink said. "And she named her kids really bizarre names. I think groups on Facebook are going to have no influence, besides people joining to look cool to their friends and what not. Some people, in the Obama group, are probably voting for McCain."

Maria Toce, 21-year-old television and video major, is a member of the group "Barack Obama (One Million Strong for Barack)."

"Honestly I joined the group because I support Obama," she said.

Toce saw importance in Facebook groups with political themes.

"Facebook is a great way to spread word around about anything," Toce said. "I'm sure there are those kids who join political Facebook groups just to fit in or whatever, but there are also those of us who join because we actually care about the cause."

As Kwong pointed out, this election has reached out to America's youth in many new ways. Both candidates have seen the importance of Facebook. They each have their own page updates with daily news on the campaign, the rallies and the issues. The campaigns have even added games. Sarah Palin's page has a game called "Pork Invaders," where gamers can fight wasteful spending and veto bills.

Senior Angeline Boisvert said she looks to the Barack Obama page as her source for information about the campaign.

"I like that the Obama page offers updates about Obama and the events leading to the election, since I don't watch much TV or read the news online," the writing, literature and publishing major said.

Pundits have doubted whether the youth vote in past elections has had an impact. "Polar Bears Against Sarah Palin" may not bring out more voters on Nov. 4. But as the group description warns, "Watch out, Moose, you may be next."