Young Taiwanese are playing a greater role in the presidential campaign for the Jan. 14 election than in previous polls, while both the main political parties — the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) — try to win the youth vote.
According to Ministry of the Interior statistics, there are about 1.2 million first-time voters eligible to take part in the election, while the number of voters aged between 20 and 29 is 3.46 million.
To attract voters in this age group, the KMT and DPP have recruited young people — either as volunteer workers or even staff members of their campaign teams.
Since July, the DPP has launched several youth groups, including the “B Group,” which has been conducting small rallies on behalf of the party’s presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on university campuses and in downtown areas around Taiwan.
“Politics is not just for older people; there is still a group of people out there who are younger and do not feel detached from political issues,” said 20-year-old Lo Wen-yun, who is spending 20 hours a week as a volunteer on Tsai’s campaign.
The deputy head of the DPP’s youth division, Lin He-ming (林鶴明), also highlighted the use of social networking Web sites such as Facebook, which is happening for the first time in a Taiwanese presidential election and can mobilize supporters at low cost.
Meanwhile, the KMT has hired a group of people in their 20s and early 30s to run news, news-generation and new media for President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) re-election campaign, including 32-year-old Hsiu Chieh-lin (修杰麟), deputy head of innovation.
In past elections, Hsiu said, many youth were not really concerned about public affairs, but responded better to things they feel connected to. Therefore, apart from holding concerts by its own rock band, the KMT is also using short films to illustrate Ma’s achievements in an attempt to communicate better with young people.
One of these films uses a love story to highlight the Ma administration’s achievement of increasing the number of countries offering visa-waivers to Taiwan to more than 100 and has been watched by more than 150,000 people on YouTube.
Additionally, more than 30 current or former heads and deputy heads of university student associations have set up an independent group running a Facebook campaign to examine each candidate’s policies and platforms.
However, with a Nov. 21 poll by the Chinese-language United Daily News showing that only 55 percent of the people in their 20s care about the presidential race and just 69 percent willing to vote, Niu Tse-hsun (鈕則勳), an associate professor at Chinese Culture University’s Department of Advertising, said young voters are a difficult group to make predictions about.
Saying that young people care more about issues that concern them directly, such as how long it would take to save up for an iPhone, Niu added that younger voters might be influenced by their parents in their choice of candidate or might simply decide to have a day out rather than vote.
Although nothing is certain until election day, the participation of the younger generation has brought a new aspect to Taiwan’s political landscape.