This year’s presidential campaign isn’t just being
played out in news media. It’s in magazines. On websites. In
the lyrics of your favorite song. In the words of your favorite
entertainer. This year’s presidential election has been
pushed deep into the mainstream by the country’s coveted pop
culture.

A growing number of organizations have emerged this year with
the intention to move the youth of America, traditionally the least
active election participants, to the voting booths. Instead of
using politicians or educators however, these organizations have
been creating coalitions of celebrities to reach out to the young
generation.

From MTV’s “Choose or Lose” campaign to the
WWE’s “Smackdown Your Vote!”, entertainment
outlets have been rallying all season long to get the younger
generation involved in the election.

Van Toffler, president of MTV and MTV2, said in a written
statement, “The goal of ‘Choose or Lose 2004’ and
‘20 Million Loud’ is to give this enormous pool of
potential voters the tools they need to make informed choices, get
involved in the political process and become motivated to make the
ultimate choice in our democracy.”

When MTV.com presented its first ever “PRElection,”
a fake election for young adults to cast their presidential votes,
almost 120,000 people used the PRElection to register to vote in
the real presidential election. According to the website, this made
the PRElection one of the most used voter-registration tools this
election year.

“I think that the endorsements of celebrities are a sign
of the times,” Music School senior Julia Bocknowski said.
“Never in our lifetimes have the issues concerning our
country been quite so divisive. The impact that these stars have on
youth will of course be huge, since so many young people get their
news from stations like MTV.”

Other nonpartisan organizations such as “Hip Hop Team
Vote” and “Rock the Vote” have also been working
to rally the country’s youth. Rock the Vote has created
public service announcements with Justin Timberlake, Ricky Martin,
Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel Jackson speaking out about the
importance of voting. The Hip Hop Team Vote alliance of artists
such as Beyonce Knowles, P. Diddy and Will Smith rallied in
mid-August to register more than 11,000 new young voters at a
single event in Philadephia.

But pop culture’s influence is extending beyond just
registering the youth of America. Musicians, actors and actresses
alike are picking up their microphones and voicing their own
political views in efforts to sway the voters to their own side.
Appearing on talk shows, in commercials and on tour, celebrities
are making their political affiliations known and working to sway
the crucial youth vote.

The recent Vote for Change musical tour, featuring Bruce
Springsteen, Dave Matthews, Pearl Jam, REM and Ben Harper, toured
the country’s swing states including Michigan to speak to
concert-goers about the importance of defeating President Bush.

Other Kerry supporters include Gwyneth Paltrow, Julia Roberts,
Leonardo DiCaprio, Green Day, Good Charlotte, John Mellencamp and
the Dixie Chicks. A group called Punk Voter also sponsored a series
of Rock Against Bush tours featuring artists such as NOFX, Alkaline
Trio and Tom Morello. The group later issued two compilation CDs
that feature Green Day, Foo Fighters, No Doubt, and Sum 41.

“I knew who I would vote for this election, so I was not
heavily affected by the activism of entertainers,” LSA senior
Maureen Ferry said. “However, I loved hearing about new
musicians performing on the Vote for Change tour. As these
celebrities and entertainers are a main focus of many young people,
I definitely think they should voice their opinions.”

Kerry supporters aren’t the only musicians tuning in to
youth, however. There has also been musical activism supporting
President Bush throughout the campaign season, tending to appeal to
a different demographic.

Kid Rock recently performed at a party honoring House Speaker
Dennis Hastert during the Republican National Convention, while
country singer Lee Ann Womack joined the campaign trail with Bush
in Ohio. Country acts Brooks & Dunn and The Gaitlin Brothers
also performed during the convention.

Other celebrity Republicans include Ricky Martin, C.C. DeVille
of Poison, Clint Black, Reba McIntyre and Wayne Newton. Britney
Spears also appeared in an interview with CNN’s Tucker
Carlson pledging her support for the President.

The impact of the pop culture activism craze could potentially
have a large impact in the Nov. 2 election, as hundreds of
thousands of newly registered young people vote for the first time.
An MTV/CIRCLE poll conducted by CBS News finds that young
people’s interest in this year’s presidential election
is the highest it’s been since 1992, and the percentage of
youth paying close attention to this year’s campaign is
double what it was in the 2000 election.

“Our generation specifically has become more involved
because of an increase in eligible voters and awareness that
corresponds to that,” Engineer junior Connor Henley said.
“I believe certain events have affected students in this
demographic group. So there’s a more pressing concern with
regard to students and our role in the outcome.”

This year’s swing vote might not belong to Florida or Ohio
after all. It might turn out to be the youth of America that swings
the country toward its next president.

Celebrity Endorsements

In the Republican corner:

Ricky Martin, Kid Rock, Lee Ann Womack, Britney Spears, Reba
McIntyre

In the Democratic corner:

Julia Roberts, Gwyneth Paltrow, Leonardo DiCaprio, Green Day,
John Mellencamp

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