World and Nation

Youth Voters Supporting Sen. Obama Exhort Their Elders to Follow

The daily phone calls. The midnight e-mails. And when college lets out, those dinner table declamations? Oh, please.

Sen. Barack Obama’s devotees just won’t give their parents a break.

As the race for the Democratic presidential nomination continues, the young supporters of each candidate have been campaigning with bright-eyed brio, not only door-to-door but at home as well. But the young supporters of Obama, who has captured a majority of under-30 primary voters, seem to be leading in the pestering sweepstakes. They send their parents the latest Obama YouTube videos, blog exhortations and “Tell Your Mama/Vote for Obama!” bumper stickers.

Megan Simpson, a Penn State senior, had not been able to budge her father, a Republican. But the day before the deadline for registering for the coming Democratic primary in Pennsylvania, she handed him the forms and threw in a deal-sweetener as well. “I said, ‘Dad, if you change your party affiliation in time to vote for Obama,”’ recalled Simpson, 22, an Obama campus volunteer, “‘I will get you the paperwork the day after the primary if you want to switch back to being a Republican.”’

Thus did Ralph E. Simpson Jr., 50, construction company owner, become a newly minted Democrat. “I probably will switch my affiliation back,” Simpson said, “but I haven’t decided who I will vote for in the general election. If Meg keeps working on me, who knows?”

No poll has counted Obama supporters who made their choice at the urging of their children, and in fact combining exit polls in all the primaries so far (excluding Florida and Michigan) shows that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has edged Obama, 50 percent to 46 percent, among voters ages 45-64 — those who are old enough, and then some, to be the parents of Obama’s young supporters.

But even politicians are mentioning the persuasiveness of their children, either in earnest or as political cover, as a factor in their Obama endorsements.

That list of Democrats includes Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Gov. James E. Doyle of Wisconsin, Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

Caroline Kennedy mentioned her children in explaining why she decided to campaign for Obama. And last week, former president Jimmy Carter, a superdelegate, pointedly told reporters that his children and grandchildren support Obama, though he declined to name his own choice.

While politicians inevitably invoke children and the future, rarely have the political preferences of children themselves carried much weight with their elders. On the contrary: when baby boomer parents were the age their children are now, the ideological and social gap between generations was more pronounced. Parents were, by definition, authoritarian. Their children were, by definition, anti-.