Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Apathy and the Youth Vote

Despite record numbers, and a steady increase - 3 cycles running - the youth vote still faces many challenges when compared to the record of consistent voting from those age 65 +. Why? Many ideas. This is probably the closest to truth.

Look at this problem from a marketing perspective. If you were Nike and you were selling a sneaker, you would do whatever it took to get your product in front of your target audience, get them into the store, and buy your product. You wouldn't ignore your target market and then whine about the fact that no one was buying your shoes. The same is true for young people and voting. If we want them to get to the polls, we have to put our resources behind efforts to register them, and we have to make our product (voting/democracy) readily and easily available to them.
Connery (who I worked with for several months on the MyDD diary rescue project, and found solid respect for) is the author of Youth to Power: How Today's Young Voters Are Building Tomorrow's Progressive Majority and proprietor of the Future Majority.

As demographics and means of political access change, his work is increasingly important. Not simply for understanding how to better win elections, but how to better engage the literal future of our country in deciding our countries theoretical and immediate future through political involvement.


  1. Speaking from experience, I think the youth in general feel unattached to the issues and the candidates. Politics feels like this big unknown gray area and they don't know where to start if they want to try to understand it. And then if they do try to understand and get involved, it feels (especially in Utah) that your one vote really won't make a difference anyway.

    It took me years to get past these feelings and decided to actively search out the issues and candidates and be a part of it all. But most of my friends, even those in their 30's now, have said they don't think their vote makes a difference and they don't understand it all anyway. ARGH!

  2. ARGH! is the perfect thing to say.

    I think you're experience and mine are very similar, Jessica. And unfortunately here (though probably not unique to Utah) we really do have to seek it out ourselves, and most often it takes reaching a level of frustration great enough to motivate us to act.

    The parties are getting better at understanding what "grassroots" and "populism" really mean, but they have yet to master actually using these as tools to engage activists and voters on a state level, as Obama has been able to do on a national level.

    They'll get it, but for now, it's still up to us to get up off our asses and get involved.