Barack Obama made a new attempt on Friday to shore up the youth vote with a live interview on MTV.
President Barack Obama sat down at the White House with anchor Sway Calloway and delivered a careful pitch based around youth-friendly topics such as climate change, college tuition and gay marriage.
He also opened up about his personal life, revealing that he has banned his daughter from using Facebook for security reasons, and talking about his anguish at seeing his friends’ family members die in gun violence in Chicago.
The questions for the half-hour interview were sent in by young MTV viewers, and focused around issues which concern college students and the under-30s.
Barack Obama is likely to attract the support of a large majority of young people, but nonetheless faces a fierce battle to boost turnout among the group, who traditionally vote in relatively low numbers.
He was in his element during the MTV interview on Friday afternoon, with many of the questions centring on common Democratic talking points such as global warming and women’s equality.
The first question, predictably, was about youth unemployment, and prompted the President to defend his economic record, arguing: “We’ve made real progress since I came into office… but we’ve got to do a lot more.”
When asked how he would help entrepreneurs, Barack Obama claimed his administration was “making it easier for entrepreneurs to raise money through the internet” by seeking crowd-funding from a number of small investors.
However, Barack Obama refused to contemplating forgiving the student debt of graduates who start their own business, saying it would be better to “make sure that folks don’t get loaded up on debt in the first place”.
Sway Calloway pointed out that the majority of young people now support same-sex marriage, and pressed the President to make a greater commitment to “ensure that all Americans have equal rights in the eyes of the federal government”.
However, Barack Obama – while describing gays as “outstanding people” – reiterated that “historically marriages have been defined at the state level”, and suggested he would not push for federal legislation to legalize gay marriage nationally.
But he insisted: “The evolution in this country will get us to a place where we will be treating everyone fairly,” and argued that future generations’ support of gay marriage would change the political landscape.
When the conversation turned to the “silent epidemic” of gun violence in America’s cities, the President spoke of his personal grief at the murders which have blighted his native Chicago.
“These shootings are taking place a few blocks away from my home, and I have friends whose family members have been killed,” he said.
Barack Obama also talked about climate change, an issue which did not come in the presidential debates, saying: “We’re not moving as fast as we need to, and this is a problem which future generations will have to be dealing with.”
The President addressed his hopes and fears for his daughters, Malia and Sasha, as he said: “They’re growing up pretty quick, and when they’re out of the house I want to make sure they have the same opportunities as anyone’s sons.”
He revealed that Malia found it difficult to balance the stresses of adolescence with life in the public eye, saying: “Because she’s well-known I’m very keen about her protecting her privacy.”
Barack Obama said that she was not allowed to use Facebook for security reasons, but joked that he was not worried about the prospect of her dating – “because she’s got Secret Service protection”.
A more cultural moment came towards the end of the interview, when Sway Calloway asked whether Barack Obama was concerned about the decline in political music.
The President reminisced about his youthful love of Bob Marley: “I can remember when i was in college listening – and not necessarily agreeing with everything, but thinking about how people outside our country were thinking about the struggle for jobs and dignity and freedom.”
Among modern bands, he praised the Roots, a hip-hop group who are “doing some really good stuff”.
MTV has invited Mitt Romney to participate in a similar event, and the network says it hopes to feature the Republican candidate at some point before Election Day.