Where Are all the Young Voters?

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

26 comments

Ann P.
A P6 years ago

This is classic for youth. Many don't inform themselves (and we really have enough uninformed voters.) They don't full recognize it is THEY who will bare the long-term consequences of the decision of those voted into office today. They and their children will live with a failed clean energy policy, failed water policies, failed infrastructure, low-priority and inequitable educational system, a dismantled regulatory system that is more often in bed with rather that regulating and fails in food, environmental and workplace safety, and fails to prevent future corruption and collapses in Banking, Wall St.... and continues to allow future Enron, and BP episodes, a corporate SCOTUS that believes Corporation = Person and Money = Speech and the further corrupts the political system with decisions like "Citizen's United" that ensure laws are design by of, by and for the Corporations and the rich and powerful who control them... But, they've got more important things to distract them.

Once they're old enough to vote, they can't simply blame the previous generations. There was a draft and a war in the 60's that had many young people very invested.

Melissa Phelps
Melissa Phelps6 years ago

voted!

Melissa Phelps
Melissa Phelps6 years ago

already voted!

ana p.
ana p6 years ago

THEY DON'T VOTE BECAUSE THEY HEARD ALL THE CONFUSED ADULTS THAT DON'T KNOW HOW TO THINK!

YOU DON'T HELP YOUR PRESIDENT, YOU (NOW WE ALREADY KNOW THE RESULTS) LIKE MORE STUPID "COWBOYS-OIL-WAR-ROBBERS-PRESIDENTS", WELL YOU WILL HAVE MORE OF THAT IF YOU CONTINUE LIKE THIS!! AFTER DON'T COMPLAIN!
BUT REMEMBER THIS: BECAUSE OF YOU MANY COUNTRIES ARE SUFFERING POVERTY,BECAUSE OF THE CRISIS USA HAVE CREATED UNDER BUSH ADMINISTRATION - SO THAT'S ONLY NATURAL THAT WE SAY THAT, IT'S OUR RIGHT! YOU ARE NOT THE WORLD - THERE ARE "THE REST OF THE WORLD" THE SAME IS TO SAY : MOST OF THE WORLD - THAT DOESN'T CONCERN JUST YOU!!!

Mary L.
Mary L6 years ago

Couldn't, I voted early.

Empress Ginger
Ginger Strivelli6 years ago

they need to make voting more popular...pay for votes, fines for not voting, voting online, or by phone or something....the newer generations just are trained to be lazy...everything must be easy for them to bother.

Elizabeth M.
Elizabeth M6 years ago

I am not at all surprised. Campaigns are being conducted like a playground brawl. Everyone ends up with mud on their cloths and goes home angry. If you are not prepared to vote party lines, your only options are to abstain or throw darts because after all of this aggressive campainging, we still know NOTHING about the candidates.

When will campaigns be about the issues, the candidates and their values instead of histrionics and innuendo? Give us some substance, something that we can base a reasonable judgment on. And while I'm at it, with the country in the midst of the worst recession in decades, what a shame that all of that campaign money couldn't have been put to better use.

I don't blame the kids at all.

Marie W.
Marie W6 years ago

Check Facebook.. they seem to be there.

Jayna W.
Jayna W6 years ago

Here is the problem. You tell voters you are going to end the war, stop torture, close down gitmo. You are going to bring transparency and openness to government. So they voted for you. Instead, the wars, torture, and gitmo continue. No one is punished for torture and other war crimes. More and more of our freedoms and privacy rights are stripped away with continuation of the Patriot Act and stepped-up electronic surveillance and spying on American citizens by their own government. Our politicians are being more and more corrupted by corporate and drug cartel money. So they stay home. Why vote? Just more of the same or worse.

Elsa W.
Elsa W.6 years ago

As for why college students don't vote, there are many reasons. I found a poll on this question, http://my-take.com/poll/What-is-the-main-reason-that-only-a-low-percentage-of-college-students-vote . Most college age voters don't understand that it's the older generation that decide the rules that they have to live by. It is also hard because we have so many distractions and it is easier to disengage from the political process. If Congress can't pass laws to provide healthcare to 911 responders then how can college students have faith in the people we elect and in the system in general. As for why college students don't vote, there are many reasons. I found a poll on this question, http://my-take.com/poll/What-is-the-main-reason-that-only-a-low-percentage-of-college-students-vote . Most college age voters don't understand that it's the older generation that decide the rules that they have to live by. It is also hard because we have so many distractions and it is easier to disengage from the political process. If Congress can't pass laws to provide healthcare to 911 responders then how can college students have faith in the people we elect and in the system in general. I'm still angry about that bill not passing by the way.