18 in ’18: The Next Generation of Voter Registration Campaigns
How are we getting Gen Z voters to the polls?
Young voters in America have a reputation for not showing up on election day. During the 2010 midterm elections, for example, when President Barack Obama was in office, only 24 percent of Americans aged 18 to 29 voted (compared to a turnout rate of 50 to 60 percent among eligible voters aged 30 and older.)
Why? They cited reasons like “too busy, conflicting with work,” or “not interested, felt my vote wouldn’t count.”
But in this year’s midterms, analysts are predicting that the Gen Z voting bloc might make bigger waves.
Researchers at The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University are surveying Americans ages 18 to 24 to find out more about their attitudes towards politics.
They found there has been a surge in political engagement among this age cohort:
- 34 percent of youth said they are “extremely likely” to vote this November
- Voter registration among young people is up in key battleground states and overall
- Activism and intent to vote are strongly correlated, and the proportion of young people who join protests and marches tripled since the fall of 2016—from 5 percent to 15 percent
- This fall, the proportion of youth who report that they are paying attention to the midterm races rose to 46 percent—a 20 percent increase from 2016
- Almost 3 out of 4 youth said they believe that dramatic change could occur in this country if people banded together.
It’s important to consider the implications of getting young people involved in the democratic process now. By 2020, 27 percent of the U.S. electorate — some 54 million people — will be between the ages of 18 to 29. They are, quite literally, the future.
What can we learn from recent communications campaigns and influencer strategies that aim to engage this next generation of voters?
Here are 5 creative tactics that seem to be making a difference:
1. Party with a purpose
One month before her 18th birthday, actress and youth advocate Yara Shahidi launched Eighteen x 18, a platform to engage her generation in the midterm elections through creative storytelling and events. The initiative presented one of the “rooms” at Refinery29’s interactive exhibit 29Rooms in New York City.
Keeping the party going, Shahidi’s organization hosted workshops, panel discussions, keynote speakers and live entertainment at the #WeVoteNext Summit at TOMS headquarters in Los Angeles.
MTV got involved, too, and launched its first-ever midterm election drive for youth. Teaming up with #VoteTogether, the entertainment brand is helping young people host their very own +1 the Vote Party, encouraging people to host a celebration on or before Election Day and invite their friends to vote to increase participation.
It appears, in addition to online engagement, meeting peers face-to-face, in real time, in real life, builds real community.
When former First Lady Michelle Obama spoke at a When We All Vote rally, she made it a point to frame voter registration in a way that young people can understand, relevant to their everyday lives:
“You wouldn’t give your grandmother the power to decide what clothes you wear to the club.
You wouldn’t give your crazy uncle the power to post a picture to your Instagram feed.
So why would you give a stranger the power to make far more important decisions in your life?”
- Michelle Obama
3. Break silence
Taylor Swift finally came out as a Democrat a couple of weeks ago. About 65,000 people registered to vote in the 24 hours after she posted the announcement on Instagram, according to Vote.org.
More and more, celebrities are expected to take a stand for their beliefs. And their influence on young people is palpable.
4. Be proactive
By the time someone gets to wear the iconic “I Voted” sticker, it’s too late to spread the word about voter registration. This organization gives away free “I’M VOTING” stickers though retailers, ambassadors, and partner organizations.
5. Get personal
Sierra Club released a new ad, #WhyDoYouVote? The artful film, directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Darren Aronofsky, features 18-year old activists, including talking about why they’re voting for the first time this year.
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