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« Uniting for Change | Main | Obama in Independence: Speaks of Patriotism »


Discovering Young Voters, Part 2

By Sarah Burris
June 30, 2008

Yesterday I wrote part 1 of my Discovering Young Voters series designed to help those unaccustomed to the youth movement learn more about how Millennials can impact the upcoming election.

Often times we bypass the introductory level information assuming everyone knows about these things. Therefore, today I'd like to continue the series for entry level topics to create an understanding of why young voters are important and how they impact elections, what are frequent mistakes about young voters, what are attitudes of young voters, youth policy and talking about issues, and how to begin a youth program.

Frequent Mistakes About Young Voters

  1. Young People Don't Vote. Believe it or not, some people still like to talk about young people as being a new fad. The reality is that the last several elections have shown an upward trend among young voters turning out for elections. If you don't believe the chart below read this (pdf), or this one (pdf).
  2. Young Voters Only Come out for Obama.
    Clearly the chart above shows that the youth vote began its incline years prior to Obama's candidacy. What is unique are the issues at stake and the contributions from candidates and funders. So two things here. Lots of folks like to talk about young voters not showing up in Iowa for Dean. They did actually show up... they just didn't vote for Dean in Iowa, most actually voted for Kerry. Secondly, several years ago, major funders decide to begin pouring money into increasing participation among young people. As I stated in Part 1... "If you build it... they will come..." For more about the activities that took place in building this movement read Mike Connery's book Youth to Power, its brilliant!
  3. The youth vote is not synonymous with students.
    As much as we would like to believe that everybody goes to college its not true. And most young people who go to college, junior college, or a trade school graduate in their early 20's. Data shows that only 21% of youg people are in college. Which means that targeting young people by only doing college outreach misses about 79% of the rest of the community.
  4. Young People have an easier time at voting.
    According to the League of Young Voters ... that's a farce. Young people face some of the toughest obstacles when it comes to voting. Voting problems were the reason that the Student Association for Voter Empowerment was started. Missouri's ID Law, if passed, would have disproportionately disenfranchised thousands of young voters. Not to mention Voter Suppression Robo Calls. It's unbelievable that young people come out to vote. Imagine what the numbers would look like if our laws let everyone vote easily like a normal country!
  5. Young people vote because famous people tell them to.
    Right and John McCain is getting the senior vote cause he's old. Seriously... do we really think this is true? Are young people too stupid to understand complex issues? Of course not. This year our issues are similar to that of our parents: 1. The economy sucks... 2. The War sucks... Other issues include climate change, human rights abroad, and more.
  6. Everyone is recruiting young voters especially Republicans.
    That is only partially true. Republicans are good at preserving their young voters and young leaders. But they haven't quite figured out how to connect with young voters well enough to turn it into movement. Young people are really the hidden icing on the cake and in a stealthy way can add enough of a lead to elect candidates. Just ask John Tester and Jim Webb.
  7. Lastly, Young Voters are cheap and easy to get.
    Yeah, its true you can utilize cheap and easy things like social networking sites to create online relationships with young people that turn into real life action... but the truth is, peer to peer outreach is the best way to connect with young voters and that ain't cheap. Other ways are media buys that cut through the norm of network TV that no one watches anymore buy doing targeted cable. Try some media buys online, heck even using Facebook to Update a Voter File.

Thees are all just skimming the surface of some pretty intense articles, books, blogs and conference videos that are out there. You can get pretty wonky about this stuff, I know I have, but luckily I can bring it all to you to learn about the tricks and trades of the youth movement and its impact on our elections.


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