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Tools from roCk THe VoTe

In addition to voter mobilization work, Rock the Vote is a trusted expert on young voters and provides tools for campaigns, candidates and nonprofits to help them politically engage young adults. Tools include:

Winning Young VoTers

roCk THe VoTes Handbook for Campaigns, poliTiCal parTies and organizaTions THaT WanT To engage Young VoTers in THeir Campaigns.

Campaign Trainings

Sign up for a Winning Young Voters campaign training conducted by a Rock the Vote young voter mobilization expert. Trainings are designed for political parties, campaigns and organizations interested in bringing young adults into their programs.

Handbooks & TipsHeeTs

Winning Young Voters: Our premier campaign handbook. Use this to plan your young voter outreach. Young Voter Registration and Turnout Trends: Your one-stop source for facts on 18-29 year olds registration and turnout trends from 2000-2008, by race, gender, education level, income, and more. Targeting Young Voters: Results of our young voter modeling project, including practical tips on using the results. With Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and Public Opinion Strategies. (Spring 2008) Young Voter Mobilization Tactics II: Case studies of seven 2006 campaigns and how they targeted young voters as part of winning electoral strategies. From our partners at Young Voter Strategies. Young Voter Mobilization Tactics I: A summary of the research-tested best practices for youth get-out-the-vote. From our partners at Young Voter Strategies and CIRCLE. Tipsheets: Top Ten Tips to Mobilize Young Voters, New Media Tactics series, and more.

online VoTer regisTraTion Tool

Table of ConTenTs
Introduction: Young Voters A Political Powerhouse ................... 2 Why Target Young Voters? ............................................................. 3 Who Are Young Voters? ................................................................. 4 About the Millennial Generation Diverse demographics How to Find & Mobilize Young Voters I Voter Registration ......... 8 Best practices and tips How to Find & Mobilize Young Voters II Get Out the Vote ........12 Best practices and tips How to Talk to Young Voters .........................................................16 Top issues Tips Messaging that works Case Studies ................................................................................18 How campaigns targeted the youth vote and won Conclusion: Winning Young Voters in 2008 and Beyond............19 About Rock the Vote ....................................................................20

Rock the Vote has an innovative, easy-to-use tool for online voter registration that can be placed on any website, blog or social network page. Get it at www.rockthevote.com/partners and you can start registering voters online right away. The tool is free and available to everyone.

opinion researCH

Rock the Vote Young Voter Polls and Focus Groups February 2008 Poll of 18-29 year olds political attitudes, presidential vote choice, party identification, and issue concerns, conducted by Lake Research Partners and The Tarrance Group. October 2007 Focus groups of young voters in five cities, conducted by Lake and Tarrance. October 2007 Poll of 18-29 year olds political attitudes and issue concerns, conducted with Sacred Heart University and WWEs Smackdown Your Vote. 2006 Three polls of 18-30 year olds political attitudes, communications habits, vote choice, and issue concerns, conducted in April, September, and November by Lake and Tarrance. Polling Young Voters Reports A monthly publication of Rock the Vote that summarizes the latest 18-29 year old results from other organizations and media outlets public polling.

Find these tools and more at www.rocktheVote.com or contact rock the Vote at 202-719-9910

Young VoTers: a poliTiCal poWerHouse

In 2008, candidates who want to win in November must target young voters as part of their campaign strategies. Winning Young Voters tells you how to do that.
Young voters are playing an increasingly significant role in American elections. After decades of declining turnout, todays young adults, the Millennial Generation, are emerging as a political powerhouse voting in record numbers and playing a deciding role in close elections. Numbering 44 million citizens in 2008, todays 18-29 year olds are voting in growing numbers. Turnout among 18-29 year olds increased by millions in both 2004 and 2006: The 2008 primaries and caucuses solidified young voters power at the polls.

WHY TargeT Young VoTers?

To Win eleCTions TodaY
young voters are a huge group: More than one-fifth of the electorate is between 18-29 years of age, a total of 44 million potential voters. young = new: In a close race, new, young voters can make the winning difference. theyre voting: Despite the long-standing conventional wisdom that young adults dont vote, todays 18-29 year olds are turning out in large and growing numbers. it works: Young adults can be registered and turned out in cost-effective ways that fit right into your campaigns overall strategy. And young voters, like all voters, are attracted to candidates that reach out to them. Theyll vote in big numbers in 2008, its just a question of who will get their votes.

To build long-Term poliTiCal poWer

Partisan loyalty develops during the youth vote years: Reams of academic research show a young voters first presidential vote and party pick influence their party choice for decades. Voting is a habit: The strongest predictor of whether a person will vote is whether or not they have voted before. Winning young voters the first time pays dividends for years to come.

18-29 year old Primary turnout in 2008


2004 Vs. 2000 turnout oF young Voters


Eighteen to 29 year old voters doubled and tripled their turnout in virtually every primary and caucus of the 2008 cycle.1 Overall, young voter turnout increased 109% in states where comparisons are possible more than double.2 Not only are young adults voting in record numbers, this group of voters is making the difference in elections around the country. In 2006, the youth vote was the winning margin in several congressional and Senate contests, including Montana, Virginia and Missouri; in 2008, young adults propelled the winners to victory on both sides of the aisle in many states, including Iowa, Georgia and California.3 In 2008, candidates who want to win will need to court young voters. Use this handbook as a tool to do just that. Target young voters to win today and to build a powerful base for generations to come.

THe parTY THaT Wins THe YouTH VoTe TodaY is on TraCk To dominaTe eleCTions for deCades To Come.

Young VoTers Can make THe Winning differenCe in TigHT raCes.

todays Voters: how generation inFluences Party4

2002 Vs. 2006 turnout oF young Voters


In fact, in 2004, the number of 18-29 year old voters (20.1 million) rivaled the size of the much-coveted over-65 electorate (22.3 million). (U.S. Census Bureau)

Rock the Vote and CIRCLE tabulations of CNN exit polls and reported vote totals by state. As of March 5, 2008. Figures are Rock the Vote tabulations of 2008 exit polls and CIRCLE tabulations of 2000 and 2004 vote totals. For 2006 case studies, see Young Voter Strategies Young Voter Mobilization Tactics Volume II; for 2008 examples, see Rock the Votes post-Super Tuesday press release at www.RockTheVote.com

4 Original Chart by Bill Marsh at the New York Times and the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

WHo are Young VoTers?

abouT THe millennial generaTion
Todays 18 year olds began kindergarten in 1995, when encyclopedias were going the way of the eight-track. Cell phones, text messages, email, instant messages, and online social networks are how young adults communicate today. According to The Pew Research Center: 88 percent of 18-29 year olds are online (compared to 32 percent of those 65 and older); 70 percent of 18-30 year olds use the Internet daily and two-thirds check their email daily; About one-quarter of 18-30 year olds use communications such as Facebook or instant messaging.7 And while the digital divide persists, it is lessening with this generation 67 percent of 18-29 year old Latinos and 77 percent of African Americans are online.

Sixty-one percent of Millennial adults are white, 17 percent are Hispanic, 15 percent are black, and 4 percent are Asian. In comparison, 84 percent of Americans over 65 years of age are white. Millennial voters are also a diverse group, and becoming increasingly so:9

The Millennial Generation those born between 1977 and 1997 - is the largest American generation since the Baby Boomers.4 Today, Millennials are ages 11 to 31 and number 78 million citizens.5 Within that, the young voter cohort those between 18 and 29 years of age numbers 44 million.6 Millennials are defining themselves as a politically engaged, tech-savvy, and diverse generation.

race & ethnicity oF young Voters (18-29) in Presidential elections

poliTiCallY engaged
Young adults are taking action on key issues in communities and on campuses all across the country. From the 5,000-person Power Shift summit on climate change in Maryland in 2007 to the 2,000-person march for voting rights in Prairie View, Texas in 2008, young adults arent sitting on the sidelines of the most important fights theyre leading them. Young volunteers are fueling political campaigns, too. In 2006, campaign strategists for several winners Senator Jon Tester, Congressman Joe Courtney, and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, to name a few credited young voters and volunteers for helping fuel their victories. In the 2008 primaries, the story is magnified ten-fold. Young adults are driving the successes of many primary campaigns in 2008.

eConomiCallY inseCure
Debt and living paycheck-to-paycheck is a fact of life for todays young adults. Over the past decade, college costs, health insurance, and housing costs have soared. About two-thirds of college students graduate with debt, with the average graduate owing $20,000,8 and many single adults have a hard time making ends meet on one income. A February Rock the Vote poll found that in 2008 the economy and jobs have surpassed the war in Iraq as 18-29 year olds top issue of concern, followed closely by health care and education costs. Clearly, todays young adults are having a hard time making ends meet in a difficult economy.

race & ethnicity oF young Voters (18-29) in midterm elections

5 6

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) number 78.2 million. Rock the Vote tabulations of the U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Survey, March 2007. Ibid

7 8

Rock the Vote poll with Lake Research Partners and The Tarrance Group, May 2006. The College Board, 2006 Trends in Higher Education Series: Student Debt.

Charts are from Young Voter Registration and Turnout Trends, by Rock the Vote and CIRCLE, 2008.

WHo are Young VoTers?

diVerse demograpHiCs
As noted, young voters are a very diverse group and certainly not monolithic in their political attitudes. Below we provide a snapshot of the characteristics of young voters overall as well as several subgroups.

Young afriCan-ameriCans
size: There are 6.3 million African-American citizens between the ages of 18 and 29. (U.S. Census) issues: According to Rock the Vote polling, this groups top issues are jobs and the economy, Iraq, education and the cost of college, and health care and prescription drugs. Voting: In 2004, under-25 African-Americans increased their turnout by 11 points and voted at rates as high as the overall age group for the first time in decades. Turnout went up again in 2006. (RTV-CIRCLE) Party ID: 73% Democrat, 6% Republican, and 15% Independent. (RTV poll)

Young Women
size: There are 22 million women between the ages of 18 and 29 eligible to vote in the U.S. (U.S. Census) issues: According to Rock the Vote polling, this groups top issues are jobs and the economy, followed by health care, education and the cost of college, and Iraq. Voting: Young women vote at higher rates than their male peers. In fact, in 2004 young women led the overall young voter turnout increase, jumping 10 percentage points over 2000 levels. (RTV-CIRCLE) Party id: 55% Democrat, 26% Republican, and 19% Independent. When marital status is considered, the gap in identification decreases. Forty-eight percent of young married women identify as Democrats, 40% as Republicans, and 5% as Independents. (RTV poll)

Voting: Up until the 2004 election, 18-29 year olds were evenly divided between the two political parties in terms of vote choice. However, young adults began to vote increasingly Democratic in 2004. In 2004, under-30 voters were the only age group John Kerry won: 54% of 18-29 year olds voted for Kerry and 45% for George W. Bush.15 In 2006, 58% of 18-29 year olds chose Democratic congressional candidates. (RTVCIRCLE) In 2008, about two and a half times as many 18-29 year olds have voted in Democratic primaries compared to Republican primaries.16

Young VoTers
Size: There are 44 million 18-29 year old citizens in the U.S.,10 one-fifth of the electorate. Todays 18-29 year olds are part of the Millennial Generation, the biggest generation since the Baby Boomers. Issues: According to Rock the Vote polling, young voters top issues are jobs and the economy, followed by Iraq, education and the cost of college, and health care.11 Voting: In 2004, young voter turnout jumped by nine percentage points or 4.3 million votes over 2000 levels. Again in 2006, turnout was up this time by 1.9 million over 2002 levels.12 And in the 2008 primaries, 18-29 year olds turnout doubled and tripled in nearly ever contest.13 Party ID: 47% Democrat, 28% Republican, and 16% Independent.14

Young republiCans
Size: Approximately 28% of 18-29 year olds identify as Republicans, an estimated 12 million young adults. Issues: According to Rock the Vote polling, young Republicans top issues are jobs and the economy, immigration, gas prices, health care, terrorism and homeland security, and the budget deficit. Voting: While the GOP is facing decreasing support from young voters, the energy and loyalty of young Republicans bodes well for their commitment to the party in 2008 and beyond. In 2008, young Republican turnout increased in almost every primary, as did young adults share of the overall Republican vote.17 Young Republicans are paying close attention to the 2008 election, and the vast majority reports a high level of favorability toward and intent to vote for the partys nominee, John McCain. (RTV poll)

Young men
size: There are 22 million men between the ages of 18 and 29 eligible to vote in the U.S. (U.S. Census) Issues: According to Rock the Vote polling, young mens top issues are jobs and the economy, followed by Iraq, health care, gas prices, and immigration.

Young laTinos
size: There are 5.6 million Latino citizens between 18 and 29 in the U.S. Young Latinos are the largest and fastest-growing racial or ethnic subset of young adults; 50,000 turn 18 each month. (U.S. Census) issues: According to Rock the Vote polling, young Latinos top issues are immigration, jobs and the economy, the environment and global warming, and Iraq. Voting: In 2004, turnout among 18-29 year old Latinos jumped six percentage points. In other words, 1.1 million more Latinos under 30 voted than had in 2000. (RTV-CIRCLE) Party id: 51% Democrat, 21% Republican, and 19% as Independent. (RTV poll)

Voting: Young mens voter turnout lags behind young womens, but men have also increased their turnout in the past two elections. In 2004, participation among men under 30 jumped by almost 8 points over 2000 levels; in 2006, their turnout grew by 3 points over 2002 levels. (RTV-CIRCLE) Party id: 38% Democrat, 30% Republican, and 22% Independent. (RTV poll)

Young demoCraTs
size: Approximately 47% of 18-29 year olds identify as Democrats, an estimated 20 million young adults. Issues: According to Rock the Vote polling, young Democrats top issues are jobs and the economy, Iraq, education and the cost of college, health care, and the environment and global warming.

10 11 12 13


Rock the Vote tabulations of the U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Survey, March 2007. Rock the Vote 2008 February 2008 poll of 18-29 year olds. Young Voter Registration and Turnout Trends. CIRCLE and Rock the Vote. February 2008. Rock the Vote and CIRCLE tabulations based on 2000, 2004, and 2008 CNN exit polls and reported vote totals. Rock the Vote 2008 February 2008 poll of 18-29 year olds.

15 16


National Election Pool Exit Poll, 2004. As of March 5, 2008. From Rock the Votes Young Voter Turnout 2008 - Primaries and Caucuses factsheet. Ibid

HoW To find & mobilize Young VoTers i: VoTer regisTraTion

Registration is the best get-out-thevote tactic around: in 2004, 82% of registered 18-29 year olds voted.18 If youre in a tight race and need a way to create more votes, register young adults. Its cost-effective and it works.
Online, you can register a new young voter for $2-10 per registration application.19 By direct mail, you can generate a new registration application for $5-7 per person.20 In person on campus and at events volunteers can generate new registrations at very little cost and paid staff can for $8-15 per registration.21 Bonus Tip: Registration builds lists. By registering voters you can ID new supporters and collect contact info that will be crucial to running persuasion, education, or GOTV efforts.



More than 80% of 18-29 year olds are online regularly. With a few simple techniques you can register large numbers of young adults online for relatively little cost. Here are a few ways to do this:

approach and plug registration on your website when doing TV or radio or speaking at events. Make sure to include a Register your Friends link. High-Traffic Sites: The online voter registration tool can also be posted to blogs, MySpace profiles, and Facebook fan pages. If you have these (and you should), put the widget up there and message your friends as deadlines approach.

online adVerTising
Internet Ads: For $2-10 per registration, you can places ads on youth-oriented websites and generate registrations that way.23 Figure out which websites are most heavily visited by your target demographic (for instance, ESPN. com for men, People.com for women) and place a Register to Vote Today ad that links back to your website. Search Advertising: With Google, MSN, or Yahoo search advertising you can advertise your campaign website and generate registrations for less than $5 each.24 With geographic targeting you can opt to only show your ads in the states, cities, or zip codes that are most important to your campaign. Advertise on search phrases like register to vote, voting information, elections, or your candidates name. Facebook Advertising: With simple text and image ads you can register young voters on Facebook for $5 - $10.25 You can choose to show the ads in the states, cities, or even colleges you are targeting, as well as by demographic characteristics, and you only pay when people click the ad. Find out more at http://www.facebook.com/ads

Your WebsiTe
Your first step should be to put rock the Votes online voter registration tool on your website, blog, and social network pages. its free and easy. You can sign up for your own widget at www. RocktheVote.com/partners and start registering voters online right away. The best news - you collect the contact information of anyone who uses the widget to register to vote on your website - an instant GOTV or volunteer outreach list. Tips for online registration: Promote It: Promoting registration on your site is key email your lists, place the Register to Vote button in a prominent location, post voter registration updates and deadlines in your Latest News section or on your blog, or challenge your friends and colleagues to a registration contest. Timing Matters: Promote registration prominently on your website as deadlines approach. Make it Visible: Put the button on your front page or blog, and regularly promote it in your Latest News section so that visitors are reminded to register. Reminders: Email your list as deadlines

soCial neTWorks

regisTraTion TaCTiCs THaT Work

The rule of thumb for voter registration is to go where young people spend their time at home, at school, online, or in communities and ask them to register to vote.

Millions of young voters spend a lot of time on social networks MySpace, Facebook, MiGente, BlackPlanet and more. Make sure to set up a profile on the key networks ask your young staff and volunteers which ones (or contact Rock the Vote) and designate one of those younger staff members to make sure the site is constantly updated and integrated with your campaigns overall online organizing strategy. Post a link to your websites voter registration from all of these sites (or put a widget on there, too) and make sure your profile or page is highlighting upcoming registration deadlines, campaign events, and more.

VoTer regisTraTion ConTinued...


19 20


U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, Voting and Registration Supplement November 2004. Rock the Vote online registration test results. Results from Rock the Vote re-registration direct mail experiments, 2007-2008, conducted by MSHC Partners. Estimates based on field experiences of youth vote organizations. Cost depends on staff wages.

23 22 Winning Young Voters - New Media Tactics I, forthcoming from Rock the Vote, spring 2008. 24 25

Winning Young Voters - New Media Tactics I, forthcoming from Rock the Vote, spring 2008. Ibid Ibid

eVenTs & CommuniTY Hubs

Work with 2-3 keyed-in young people on your campaign to map out where to find the most young people for event or site-based registration. Brainstorm out the places where young adults hang out in the area and put together a plan to hit them with volunteers and clipboards.
Sites: Bars, clubs, coffee shops, theaters, social services offices, transit centers, houses of worship, barber shops, and city parks are all great places to find young adults.

direCT mail
Despite what you might assume, direct mail is a very effective way to register young adults to vote.

CosTs and raTes

RTVs 2007 test found that direct mail can generate a completed registration for $5-7 per application. Six percent of those mailed a form completed the application in Rock the Votes 2007 test; eight percent returned the registration form when also sent an email reminder.

HoW To
list: Buy or build a list of 18-29 year olds addresses. Make sure your mail vendor performs a change-of-address update before sending the mail young people move a lot. creative: The mail piece should indicate clearly it is a voter registration form, contain a state-specific application on the inside, and have a pre-printed return address. Follow up: If you have emails for your mail recipients, a reminder note can increase return rates.

on Campus
College campuses are the best places to find a lot of young people. Working with student volunteers, there are many opportunities to register young voters on campus: Class and group presentations: Student groups and large classes are great places to register new voters. Work with volunteers on campus to set up these presentations. You can expect to register about 15% of each class. Tabling: Get a few volunteers, grab some clipboards, and ask passersby in high-traffic areas to register to vote. Volunteers can expect to register about 5 people per hour.

BOnUs Tip:
Rock the Vote found that nonpartisan, official-looking direct mail pieces have the best rates of return. See below:

Tip: Timing maTTers

Upcoming voter registration deadlines, new school semesters, and 18th birthdays are all good times to remind a person to register to vote. Out of all those, though, deadlines are the best motivator make sure to do a big push before your states deadline.

Official Mail Piece more successful

Events: Fairs, festivals, concerts, outdoor movies, and other events tend to draw a lot of young adults.


At big events or high traffic sites, one volunteer Dorm storms: Volunteers can go door-tocan register about five 18-29 year-old voters door in dorms and generate from 5-10 per hour. For example, if 2 volunteers registered registrations per hour. voters at an event for 3 hours, they Keep in mind that not all BOnUs Tip would register colleges look the same. Class While registering voters, be sure to about 30 voters. presentations are the best collect cell numbers and emails If they registered tactic to use at two-year and so you can add them to your voters at five events commuter schools, where phonebank and email lists. And or concerts, they students usually dont live in ask if they would like to receive text could register dorms or hang out on campus messages from your campaign if 150 voters. during the day. On four-year they say yes, you can text them campuses, tabling, dorm storms, with GOTV reminders. and events work well, as do class presentations.

Events: Hold an event on campus bring the candidate, posters, volunteers and music and register the crowd. Each volunteer can expect to register 4-5 people per hour.

demographics: Mail is very useful if you want to target specific demographics. Consumer data contains all sorts of information on race, gender, political leanings, and more. Movers: Mail is an excellent tool for reregistration. Match voter files or membership lists to a change of address database and send a registration form to movers - they may have forgotten to re-register at their new address. new Voters: Tests by Womens Voices. Women Vote. have had great success registering young women around their 18th birthdays with birthday card registration mailers. Branded Mail Piece less successful


HoW To find & mobilize Young VoTers ii: geT ouT THe VoTe
Studies show that contact from campaigns significantly increases a young persons likelihood of turning out to vote on Election Day. Plus, its cost-efficient and easy to integrate with your overall campaign strategy.
A door knock can boost turnout by about 8 points for about $25 per additional vote.26 A live phone call increases turnout by 3-5 points for $20-26 per additional vote.27 A text message increases turnout by 3-4 points and can be very inexpensive.28 Multiple contacts from a campaign can increase turnout by 10-14 percentage points.29

goTV TaCTiCs THaT Work

You can increase turnout by about 8 points among those contacted if you have face-toface contact with young adults before Election Day.

You can increase turnout by 3-5 percentage points among those contacted by reaching out to young voters through volunteer and paid phonebanks the week before the election. Calls should be made by a real person, not a computer. Callers should emphasize where and when to vote and the importance of having ones voice heard. Keep the tone informal and chatty and more informational than partisan. The most effective time to call is from 6-9pm on weekdays, though weekend days can also be effective.

TexT messaging
A 2006 test found a GOTV text message can increase young voter turnout by 4 percentage points.

gOTV Tip: Keep yOUng peOple On yOUr lisTs

One of the simplest things you can do is make sure to keep young adults on your walk and call lists. Vendors often take them off if they lack a recorded vote history but keep them on and you can successfully turn out new, young voters using traditional campaign tactics.

In the days leading up to an election, send a text message reminder to vote to those who have opted into receiving mobile updates from your campaign. Keep it simple. For example, use a message like: Hi Anne! Just a reminder that TOMORROW is Election Day. Please vote. TxtVoter.org (sample message from the 2006 Strauss/Dale study) Send messages close to Election Day, or on it. Messages more than a week out may be less effective.

Timing is important. A recent study shows that face-to-face contact increases turnout if done in the two weeks before the election, but not earlier than that.30 Studies show that other young or older adults living with young people who are canvassed also vote at significantly higher rates (spillover effect). Make sure to include basic voting information when canvassing young adults, such as where and when to vote.



28 29

Getting Out the Vote in Local Elections: Results from Six Door-to-Door Canvassing Experiments, Donald Green, Alan Gerber, and David Nickerson. Yale University, November 2003. Getting Out the Youth Vote: Results from Randomized Field Experiments, Donald Green and Alan Gerber, Yale University, December 29, 2001 and Volunteer Phone Calls Can Increase Turnout, David Nickerson, American Politics Research. Vol 34(3): 271-292, 2006. Text Messaging as a Youth Mobilization Tool, Allison Dale and Aaron Strauss, April 2007. Voter Registration and Turnout Among College Students, Richard Niemi and Michael Hanmer. Prepared for the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Philadelphia, PA, September 2006 and The Effects of an Election Day Voter Mobilization Campaign Targeting Young Voters, Donald Green and CIRCLE, September 2004.

BOnUs Tip:
Combining a pledge to vote (either by phone or in person) with a follow-up get-out-the-vote phone call on Election Day can increase turnout by 11 percentage points.31

Bonus - texting is inexpensive. Depending on your system, you can send a text message GOTV reminder for as little as 5-10 cents. Texting is a newly discovered successful GOTV tactic more tips to come as we at Rock the Vote learn more.

geT ouT THe VoTe ConTinued...


Forget Me Not? The Importance of Timing in Voter Mobilization, David Nickerson. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Philadelphia, PA, 2006.


The Effects of an Election Day Voter Mobilization Campaign Targeting Young Voters, Green and CIRCLE, 2004.


TV, radio, and prinT ads

The mainstay of campaigns traditional advertising can help get young people out to the polls. A 2004 study found that Rock the Votes pre-election ads increased turnout among young adults by 2 percentage points.32 The cost per additional vote generated, according to the study, was $14. Other research indicates that TV, radio, and newspaper ads may have a small (1-2 point) positive impact on voter turnout.33 Run ads where young voters will see and hear them: top-rated TV shows and networks for this demographic include Greys Anatomy, Ugly Betty, Sports Center, Lost, The Daily Show, MTV, the CW and Comedy Central. Also run radio ads on local hip hop, indie rock, or top 40 stations.

goTV TaCTiCs THaT donT Work

direCT mail
Used for get-out-the-vote purposes, direct mail does not increase voter turnout among young adults. In general, direct mail, especially partisan mail, has a very minimal GOTV impact on voters of any age.34 (Direct mail is, however, a cost-effective way to register young people to vote. See previous section.)

Email is a useful way to communicate with voters, but does not have a GOTV impact. You can send an email to all the people on your list reminding them to vote, but it doesnt actually make them more likely to vote.36 (Do note however, that email can be useful in disseminating voting information polling place locators, election times, and ID requirements in the days leading up to an election.)

While simply sending an email is not an effective GOTV tactic (see below), there are many ways the Internet can be part of an effective youth GOTV strategy. Some tips on how to do this: Information: Where to vote and what to bring is often confusing for a new voter. Make sure your website has all the basic information on how to vote on Election Day polling locations, identification requirements, etc. Building Lists: A 2006 coordinated campaign creatively used social networks to identify new supporters: in 2006, the Minnesota Democratic Farm Labor Party had volunteers at 12 colleges and universities compile lists of potential supporters (based on profile information). The volunteers then matched those lists to campus directories and went door-to-door to get students registered. Later on, they did GOTV phone calls and door-knocks. Facebook Events: Create an event on Facebook and other social networks for Election Day. Invite your friends and make sure to ask them to invite theirs. As more people RSVP to the event their friends will automatically be told about it, and you may be able to create a peer-to-peer GOTV strategy online.

Get-out-the-vote robocalls do not increase young voter turnout, nor do they have much impact on turnout of voters of any age.35 (Highquality live phone calls, as noted above, do have a significant impact.)

32 33

Assessing the Turnout Effects of Rock the Votes 2004 Television Commercials: A Randomized Field Experiment, Donald Green and Lynn Vavreck. Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, April 2006. Get Out the Vote, by Donald Green and Alan Gerber. Pages 131-132. Brookings Institution Press, Washington, D.C. 2008.

34 35

Ibid, page 69. Ibid, pages 82-83.


Does Email Boost Turnout? David Nickerson, Quarterly Journal of Political Science 2(4), 2007.


HoW To Talk To Young VoTers

The question of how to talk to young voters is not that different than how to talk to voters in general: talk to them about your plans to tackle the issues they care about, what youll do for them and their communities if elected, and ask for their votes. However, young adults do view issues, politics, and life a little differently than their parents. Here are some tips for how to relate:
young voters, but talking to them about your plans to make health care affordable, accessible, and high-quality for young adults will certainly get you attention.

messaging THaT Works

Through focus groups, polling, and work in the field, Rock the Vote knows what messaging works to motivate young voters and what doesnt. Here are the basic dos and donts of communicating with young voters:

TWo examples of messaging THaT Works38

Your vote can make a difference for people you care about. Vote for your brothers and sisters who want to be able to go to college. Vote for your friends who are in Iraq. Vote for your children who will need clean air to breathe and good schools to go to. Vote for parents so they have social security benefits and Medicare when they retire. Dont just vote for yourselfvote for them. In 2008, your voice will matter. As part of a new generation of voters, 44 million strong, you have the power to change politics in this country. Its up to you to decide who the next president of United States is. Its up to you to decide if and when the war will end. Its up to you to decide if everyone in this country should get healthcare coverage. Its all up to you, so let your voice be heard on Election Day.

reduCe THe rHeToriC

Partisanship is pass for young voters. They want ideas and action, not attack ads and soundbites. If you have an audience with young voters whether thats at an event, via a TV ad, or in an online setting take that time to talk to them about your plans and ask for their votes. Dont waste time with party platitudes or opponent attacks.

Talk about the issues and be results-oriented. Know that you need to appeal to young voters interests. Reinforce empowerment - use positive language about young voter participation. Use language that builds on young voters desire to have an impact on issues central to their lives and to the lives of their friends and families. Give them a sense their votes can make a difference and will be counted. Ask for their votes.

Talk abouT releVanT issues

Rock the Votes most recent poll of 18-29 year olds37 found that the issues young voters most want the next president to address are jobs and the economy, Iraq, health care, and education costs. Young adults also are concerned about the environment and global warming, immigration, and national security.

be real
Young adults are just as smart as any group of voters theres no need to try and be one of the kids to get our attention and votes. Just be yourself.

TreaT THem WiTH respeCT

Yes, young voters are young, as the description suggests. But they are adults and their votes count just as much as anyone elses. Make sure to avoid stereotyping the youth vote as kids or irresponsible and apathetic (an outdated notion, anyway), and not to fall into the trap of talking to young people as if they are less worthy of respect than any other group of voters.

messaging Tip #1:

Young people trust sources they view as unbiased. Hold back on the rhetoric.

BOnUs Tip:
Keep in mind that these messaging tips are for the general youth vote cohort. But as noted earlier, Millennials are very diverse and made up of many different groups. Work with your staff and volunteers and use Rock the Votes polling on these subgroups39 and other resources to craft messages that motivate your target audiences.

toP issues From Feb. 2008 Poll

Denigrate young people for apathy or low voting rates. Not only is this not true anymore, it can decrease turnout. Place young people in opposition to older people. Assume that young voters know the basics of registering and voting. Think young voters will vote just because it is the right thing to do. Invoke anger. Theyre looking for solutions, not complaints. Forget to ask for their votes.

JusT do iT
For three decades, there has been a cycle of mutual neglect between young people and politicians. Youth turnout was low, and so candidates didnt reach out to young people. But young people saw that candidates and elected officials didnt pay them any heed, and so became less and less likely to vote. That cycle of neglect is beginning to be broken by young people voting and taking action in record numbers and by candidates and elected officials engaging young people in their campaigns and governing. Lets keep that up its better for our democracy and its a winning strategy for campaigns. So just do it go find your young voters (see the previous section) and ask for their votes!


By and large, young adults care about the same issues that older voters do good news for a campaign that doesnt want to have multiple issue agendas. However, make sure to talk about the issues in ways that are relevant. For example, you probably dont want to focus on Social Security and Medicare when meeting

messaging Tip #2:

Keep it real. Weve got B.S. meters installed from birth. Tell us the truth, tell us what your plan is, and were good to go.


Rock the Vote 2008 February 2008 poll of 18-29 year olds.

From Rock the Vote focus groups of 18-29 year olds, conducted by Lake Research Partners and The Tarrance Group in October 2007. Rock the Vote makes available full crosstabs of all our polling, as well as our focus group results and factsheets on key demographic subgroups of the youth vote. See www.RocktheVote.com.


Working THe YouTH VoTe Works Case sTudies

In recent elections, several campaigns have shown how targeting young voters can lead to electoral victory: 40
Jon Tester, U.S. Senate, Montana, 2006: The Tester campaign and Montana Coordinated Campaign ran a strong field effort that incorporated youth outreach. Volunteers did registration, persuasion and turnout with students by going door-to-door, tabling, sponsoring big events, and holding volunteer phone banks. In addition, the campaign utilized Facebook and MySpace to recruit for events and energize volunteers. Charlie Crist, Florida Governor, 2006: With an open gubernatorial seat and a tight race, student voters got more attention this election in Florida than in other recent races. Governor Crist reached out on issues relevant to young Floridians affordable housing, higher education, and jobs and used online networking via MySpace and Facebook. James Webb, U.S. Senate, Virginia 2006: One of the closest races in 2006 was decided in part by a huge surge in young voter turnout. Campus rallies, online outreach, and coordination with existing groups helped mobilize young voters for the Webb campaign in 2006. On MySpace, the campaign used viral marketing to build a list of 2,000 friends and turn supporters and volunteers out to events. Rallies at college campuses drew large crowds and helped build the Webb buzz among young voters.

ConClusion: Winning Young VoTers in 2008 and beYond

Young adults are voting. Whether or not you and your campaign reap the rewards is up to you.
We all know every vote can make the difference in elections In 2000, Republicans won Florida and the presidential election by 527 votes. In 2006, Democrats won Virginia and control of the Senate by 9,329 votes. and Winning Young Voters gives campaigns the tools to mobilize the 100, 1,000, or 10,000 more votes needed to win tight races to come. If you take one thing away from this handbook, take the idea that you can and must engage young adults in your 2008 election to win. But engaging young voters in your campaigns can be about far more than winning 50 percent plus one. Building a strong youth outreach program into your campaign can just be the first step in working with your younger constituents. Young adults bring energy and new ideas to a campaign, and can bring the same to your time in office. This generation is energized and engaged and deeply concerned about the top issues of the day after all, theyre the voters who are going to have the deal with them the longest. Use this handbook for your 2008 campaign but moving forward, also think about ways to capitalize on this generations energy once youre in office. Young adults are in this for the long haul and eager to work with their elected leaders to take action on the issues they all care about.

mOnTana: WOrKing The yOUTh VOTe WOrKs

18-29 turnout 2002: 30,000 18-29 turnout 2006: 65,000 18-29 turnout increase: 35,000 Margin of victory: 3,562


Joe Courtney, U.S. House, 2006: Joe Courtney won election to Connecticuts second congressional district by 83 votes, and attributes that victory to increased youth turnout. During 2006, the campaign worked with existing groups to mobilize young volunteers and voters. The young campaign staff recruited and trained a bevy of volunteers to do door-todoor registration and GOTV on campus, events with Representative Courtney, and direct mail and phone calls to non-college youth. Rep. Courtney energized youth by engaging on relevant issues, from college costs to Iraq.

Virginia: WOrKing The yOUTh VOTe WOrKs

18-29 turnout 2002: 174,000 18-29 turnout 2006: 302,000 18-29 turnout increase: 128,000 Margin of Victory: 9,329 Arnold Schwarzenegger, California Governor, 2006: The Schwarzenegger campaign, along with the state GOPs largest field effort in years, recruited large numbers of young volunteers and mobilized young voters through the Governors statewide bus tour in the fall of 2006. College volunteers staffed phone offices across the state and the bus tour registered voters and recruited supporters at Motocross races, at the beach, and on college campuses.

2006 case studies are excerpted from Young Voter Strategies Young Voter Mobilization Tactics II, 2007.


abouT roCk THe VoTe

Rock the Votes mission is to build the political clout and engagement of young people in order to achieve progressive change in our country. Rock the Vote uses music, popular culture and new technologies to engage and incite young people to register and vote in every election. We give young people the tools to identify, learn about, and take action on the issues that affect their lives, and leverage their power in the political process. Rock the Vote is creative, effective, and controlled by nobodys agenda but our own we tell it like it is and pride ourselves on being a trusted source for information on politics. We empower the 44 million young people in America who want to step up, claim their voice in the political process, and change the way politics is done. Founded in 1990 in response to a wave of attacks on freedom of speech and artistic expression, Rock the Vote has over the past 18 years become a name ubiquitous with youth political engagement.

1990-1993 - THe earlY Years: gen xs roCk THe VoTe
RTV launched our first national campaign, Censorship is UnAmerican, with Iggy Pop, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Woody Harrleson in 1990. And in 1991, with RTVs support, including PSAs and a Dear Senator postcard campaign, Congress passes the National Voter Registration Act (Motor Voter). In 1992, RTV and our partner organizations registered 350,000 young people to vote.

1996-2002 - THe middle Years: rTV HiTs THe road and THe neT
During the 1996 election, RTV registered 500,000 voters, in large part through a partnership with MTVs Choose or Lose campaign and our very first online voter registration tool, NetVote 96. In 2000, RTV registered more than 500,000 voters online, launched a 1-800-ROCK-VOTE hotline, and ran a 25-city bus tour with talent from the The West Wing, Rah Digga, Outkast, and Hootie and The Blowfish. In 2002, RTV registered 200,000 people to vote and launched our Community Street Teams.

2004-2006 - THe reCenT Years: THe millennial generaTion roCks THe VoTe
In 2004, RTV ran a nationwide campaign, including our signature Rap the Vote and Chicks Rock, Chicks Vote programs, and registered over 800,000 voters. On Election Day, RTV helped contribute to a historic 4.3 million-vote surge in young voter turnout. In 2006, RTV partnered with new media like Facebook and entered the Web 2.0 scene with a bang. Registering more than 50,000 voters, RTV helped make 2006 another huge year for young voters.

2008 - roCk THe VoTe TodaY

In 2008, Rock the Vote will register two million 18-29 year olds and work to increase young voter turnout for the third major election in a row. Well focus our efforts on young Hispanics, African Americans, and women. Well hold concerts, run PSAs, and reach out to young voters with our Artist Advisory Council including Christina Aguilera, Josh Groban, Juanez, Souljah Boy, and Against Me. We launched our best online voter registration tool yet, well use Facebook, MySpace, and new media tools like text messaging and online organizing, and well run grassroots efforts around the country. And much, much more From street teams to entertainment partnerships to innovative online efforts, Rock the Vote is a leader in the movement to make young people a more permanent part of the American political process. In 2008, well build on that and bring the power of the Millennial Generation to bear in American politics.


Winning Young Voters was made possible by generous support from The Pew Charitable Trusts, Carnegie Corporation of New York, The George Washington Universitys Graduate School of Political Management, and Peter B. and Jonathan D. Lewis. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.

1505 22nd street nW Washington, d.C. 20037 202-719-9910 (phone) 202-719-9952 ( fax) www.rockTheVote.com