Sunday, September 13, 2015

How do we get young voters to turn up and vote?

A Boomers advice to the politicians Invest in some research on how to turn out young voters or read the following, which is from Turning Out Young Voters* a study done after the last US election. The information here can also be used in Canada. 

Voting is a hard won right, and as a Boomer I am saddened by the lack of interest in politics by many. The issue of voting has been compounded by the fact that since forming government, Harper and his Conservative Party have worked hard to suppress the vote. They know that the majority of Canadians don't support them. That is why voter suppression tactics are so important to their electoral success. 

We all know how razor thin Harper's victory was in 2006. We know that in 2015 every vote will count. rabble's GoVote brings together all of the get-out-the-vote tools in one convenient location. GoVote will include all the election information voters need including voting information resources, important links, party platform report cards, election news and events, and three-minute actions for activists such as links to new petitions to sign on emerging issues. 

There is an organization in Canada called which, has lined up its most extensive and comprehensive editorial plan ever to cover the current federal election and provide voters with tools and information to get people out to vote.

The lack of interest in voting starts young, but if young people get out a vote, there is research to support the idea that they will continue to vote; but if they don’t vote, they will continue to be apathetic. We may be coming into an election in Canada, but there is a feeling out there by some that if the governing party is poised to lose the next election, they will use the election act to stay in power for another year. For Canada I hope this is not the case, but if we are to change the government we need to get young people to vote. The following ideas work:

The In 2004, young voter turnout increased more than in any election since 18 year olds won the right to vote 35 years ago. Turnout among our nation’s youngest voters ages 18-24 increased 11 percentage points from 36 percent to 47 percent; turnout among 18-29 year olds increased 9 points from 40 percent to 49 percent. (U.S. Census Bureau 2005)

This trend continued in 2005 when student-dense precincts in Virginia saw a turnout increase of 15 percent. (New Voters Project and CIRCLE 2005) Leading campaign professionals, analysts and academics agree that one of the key factors driving this recent increase in turnout is that there has been, for the first time in decades, a major investment in mobilizing these voters. Non-partisan organizations that ran peer-to-peer field operations, media, and visibility campaigns spent an estimated $40 million on registering and turning out young voters, a presidential campaign made a media buy targeting young voters, and partisan organizations both inside and outside of the party structures mobilized supportive youth.

These turnout efforts paid off on Election Day 2004 as more than 20 million 18-29 year old voters went to the polls.

The lesson learned is that today’s young adults are an engaged generation that will vote in higher numbers if they are asked. Given their sheer size—topping 42 million in 2006 and growing rapidly—it is a crucial demographic to engage and ask to vote. The question now becomes…

What is the most cost-effective way to ask a young person to vote?

Quality counts
Actual votes per contact will be higher when the contact is more personalized and interactive.

The research shows that the most effective method of generating a new voter is an in-person door knock by a peer. The next greatest impact was seen by phonebanks with longer, chattier phone scripts or volunteers making the calls.
In addition, recent survey data by Young Voter Strategies shows that the online tools that are most effective are the ones where the young voter either opts-in to the conversation or gets to interact in some way. The Section II case studies demonstrate that the less personal and interactive outreach tactics are, the less effective they are in turning out voters. One study (Ramírez 2005) allows a direct comparison between volunteer phone banks, direct mail, and robocalls. The volunteer phone banks are ten times more cost-effective than the automated phone calls or “robocalls.”

Begin with the basics
Young people need nuts-and-bolts practical information about how to vote. Moreover, efforts that make voting more convenient are quite effective.

An experiment in which high school students were taught to use a voting machine raised turnout dramatically. As Elizabeth Addonizio writes, this program increased “the probability that an 18-year-old will vote by 19 to 24 percentage points.” (Addonizion forthcoming) Another experiment which simply reminded voters to go to the polls on Election Day and provided polling place information in New Jersey in 2003 resulted in turnout increasing by almost 14 points. (Green 2004)

In addition, the research findings illustrate that efforts to make the voting process easier increase turnout in cost-effective ways. An absentee ballot request mailer generated additional votes at $8 per vote for voters under 30, a significantly more efficient impact than with older voters. (Mann 2006)

Section I: Key Themes
We found several key themes that dominate the research findings .These themes help explain how to turn out, effectively new young voters who would not otherwise go to the polls.

Ethnic and immigrant youth are cost-effective targets
When targeting ethnic or immigrant communities, it is cost-effective to target young voters, particularly because there is less need to translate materials into languages other than English.

When working in ethnic or immigrant communities, be sure to ask all voters you contact to volunteer to reach out to their neighbors: research also indicates that in ethnic and immigrant communities the most trusted messenger is someone who looks like the potential voter. (Michelson 2004)
This is the case with most voters, but even more so in these communities. Also, youth are at least as easy to reach as older voters. Latino 18-29 year-olds are easier to reach than those in the 30-39 age range and the same as 40-59 year-old Latinos. For Asians, young voters were less likely to be contacted than the older Asian-American voters but as easy to contact as those in the 30-49 age ranges. (Ramírez and Wong 2006)

Initial mobilization makes for repeat voters
Successful mobilization in one election raises people's propensity to vote in subsequent elections. Parties, candidates and interest groups should expect long-term benefits from mobilizing youth today.

In one study, the authors found that 50 percent of the effect of canvassing during the 1998 New Haven election persisted in 1999, even though there were no additional efforts to get out the vote. (Gerber, Green, and Shachar 2003) Another influential study (based on survey research, not experiments) found that once people begin to vote, their propensity to participate in future elections rises. (Plutzer 2002)

Finally, a new study that tracked 10 canvassing experiments over time indicate that voting is habit- forming. The study found that if you get a person to vote in one election, they will be 29 percentage points more likely to vote in the next election. (Nickerson 2004) Studies conducted in previous decades found that adults’ party identification was remarkably stable over the course of their lives. If these patterns persist in the current era, then the odds are high that someone who is mobilized to vote for a particular party will continue to vote for that party for decades to come. (Sears and Levy 2003, p. 79)

Canvassing has the greatest impact on turning out young people to vote. For between $11 and $14, you can get to the polls a new voter that would not have otherwise voted. Overall, we consistently found a 7 to 10 percentage point increase among young voters contacted through a door-to-door canvass – a good reason to keep young voters on your walk lists. Canvassing is especially beneficial in dense student neighborhoods and apartment buildings where you can reach more people in less time, helping keep costs low.

Phone Calls
Phone calls are a good and relatively inexpensive way to turn out new young voters–if the calls are done right. 2002 studies by Don Green and Alan Gerber found that a professional phone bank calling college areas had much more success with a longer, chattier script. Specifically, callers using a longer script ($1.50/complete) generated one additional vote per 30 completes, while a shorter call ($0.50/complete) took 400 contacts to generate a new vote, and a robocall had no detectable effect.

Recent research bolsters these findings. Volunteer phone banks or professional phone banks using a longer and chattier script consistently generate better voter turnout results. The more conversational and interactive the phone call, the better. Good phone banks saw a new voter going to the polls for just over $10 in a primary campaign and, on average, good phone call campaigns generated a 2 to 5 percentage point increase in turnout. Conversely, studies make clear that robocalls are not effective.

Direct Mail
Research shows that direct mail is not a cost-effective way to turn out new young  voters. This less personal approach makes little to no impact on targeted young voters.

New Techniques
As politics evolves, new techniques are being introduced, many of which are cost-effective and directed toward young people. In particular, the use of email, text messaging, online social networking sites and other new technologies gives us cheap and easy ways to reach young voters where they are--online or on their cell phones.

To date, there has not been a significant amount of academic research on these techniques but enough to draw this very simple conclusion: these are new ways to facilitate peer-to-peer communication and if used with a trusted messenger in a way that engages or gets the young voter to opt-in, it will have a greater impact.

Anecdotal and survey evidence points to the fact that unsolicited emails and text messages will have no turnout impact, but online chats, text messages from friends, and issue or reminder to vote emails just might.
In 2006 Young Voter Strategies is rigorously testing the effectiveness of many of these new technologies–including text messaging and viral communication on youth voter registration.

Beyond new technologies, researchers have tested new applications of old ideas from throwing parties at the polling locations to mailing absentee ballot request forms to reminding young people to go to the polls on Election Day. The most cost-effective of these tests are below. In addition, Young Voter Strategies is testing the impact of various registration techniques on increasing the likelihood of a young person voting while facilitating and compiling new research done by other academic and practitioner group pairings. These findings will be available in the spring of 2007.

Section III: Tips for campaigns
Young Voter Strategies offers the following advice based on the above research. Issue and advocacy organizations should look to these young voters, especially those who voted for the first time, as new voters who could make the difference on issue initiatives and build your constituency’s power. Further, mobilizing young voters creates a larger, more vibrant voting base in the end, re-energizing our nation’s democracy

The Young Voter Survey Top 5 Turnout Tactics:
  • Keep young voters on your call lists and walk lists
  • Make the call script longer and chattier
  • Use volunteers for calling and canvassing
  • Use technologies that young people use like text and the internet, but only in ways that allow them to opt in to the dialogue
  • Save your money; do not use robocalls or direct mail to TURN OUT  this age group
*Source: The George Washington University, The Graduate School of Political Management. Learn more at the website: or by emailing

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