The youth vote garnered 51% participation in the 2008 presidential election, but we are notoriously absent from midterm elections. Our participation drops by half, to a measly 25%. Compare these numbers to adults over 30, with 67% participation in the 2008 election and an average of 54% participation in midterm elections, and it begs the question, where are all the youth voters?
Ineffective outreachFor starters, the largest programs targeting youth voters have been criticized as ineffective. Rock The Vote, a celebrity infused program, is well intentioned but its effectiveness has been questioned. Rock The Vote was able to increase youth participation in 1992, but the effect quickly dissipated. Rock The Vote, though, is one of the few programs that produces television ads encouraging the youth vote, important because 60% of campaign ads are directed at those over 50.
Disconnect between politicos and under 30s There seems to be a large disconnect between the political world and voters under 30. In the past week my household has received multiple calls per day reminding us to vote. They were for specific candidates. Every single call was for my mother or father. Not one caller was looking to speak with me or my brother, despite the fact that we are both registered voters, and both campaigned for President Barack Obama in 2008. I guess it doesn’t matter that they didn’t ask for us, since studies show that phone calls are one of the least effective ways of garnering votes.
What does work?So what does work? According to CIRCLE, the under 30 crowd is most likely to vote when they’ve had personal contact with a peer through door-to-door canvassing. CIRCLE also reports that people need to start with the basics, which Rock The Vote does well. Prominently featured on the Rock The Vote website is their polling place locator and a number to call with questions about voting.
One more good toolIt seems that those of us under 30 are more than happy to cast a ballot, but we’ve received little attention from candidates thus far. Most of the push to vote seems to come from friends or classmates. I know, as a recent Columbia graduate, our political groups would set up tables all around campus encouraging students to register to vote, or explaining to them how to get an absentee ballot. Not surprising, considering that Columbia students often have a longer break for election day than we do for Thanksgiving. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to vote!
Photo Thanks to Theresa Thompson