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A new study completed just before President-elect Barack Obama‘s historic election found that race was not a decisive factor for young voters.

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Race was considered the least important variable to young voters, after gender and political party affiliation, which was by far the most significant factor.

The poll by rapsessions.org, which conducts town hall meetings around the country where youth talk about issues that matter most in their lives, found that 90 percent of young people 18-24 and 81 percent of young people 25-34 said that race didn’t matter in their choice for president.

The results of a nationwide survey, conducted by Knowledge Networks, Inc, were compiled from internet interviews with 302 Black, 344 White and 307 Latino 18-45 year-olds from August 22 to September 11, 2008. The poll entitled “Understanding the Hip-Hop Voting Bloc” carried a margin of error of 3.2 percentage points.

Other findings include:

• 60 percent of 18-24 year olds have a friend relative or associate who has served or is serving in the US Military in Iraq or Afghanistan. (For 25-29 year-olds the figure was 51 percent, and 47 percent of 35-44 year olds).

• The issues that matter most in this election to young people are, in this order: the war in Iraq, lowering gas prices and living wage jobs.

• If the election were today, Barack Obama would lead John McCain by at least 13 percent among 18 to 24 year-old, as well as among 25-34 year olds. These percentages shift radically among 35-44 year-olds, among whom McCain would lead by 6 percentage points.

“It seems that the success the Obama campaign is enjoying with young people is a result of their effectiveness in tapping into core issues with the right messaging,” said Bakari Kitwana, CEO of Rap Sessions and the author of the forthcoming Let’s Get Free: Strategies for Organizing the Hip-Hop Voting Bloc (Third World Press, January 2009), which he co-authored with Jeff Johnson.

“We need a new language for understanding the ways race has evolved,” Kitwana said, “This is a new generation of young people for whom the old rules about American race relations no longer apply.”

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