The False Narrative About Young Voters

Photo: Marilyn Roxie/ BY-NC-SA

Who is the young voter?

Youth Radio spoke with Abbey Kiesa of CIRCLE, an organization that specializes in youth political polling and civic engagement. She explained three parts of the false narrative being spread about the young voter.

The first part: the young voter is a college-student. 
Kiesa explained that often when media or experts talk about young people, they’re only talking about college students. Current college students are less than half of the youth population. In fact, in 2012, 42 percent of young people between 18 – 29 years-old, don’t have any college experience. Kiesa said it’s important to remember, “When we talk about young voters, we’re talking about a diverse group with such a diversity of experience.”

The second part: young people won’t turn out at the polls.
According to Kiesa, there is no chance that zero young people will turn out. It’s a question of how many, and to what degree. “Research consistently shows that [young people] turn out when they’re contacted. Especially when contacted by their peers in an interactive way. When you look at 2008, 84 percent of people who registered to vote, actually voted.

CIRCLE’s recent poll shows that young people need more information about the voting process. Many states don’t allow people to register to vote thirty days before the election, which means taking that first step requires advance planning. “Giving [young people] basic info makes it more likely that they will turn out to vote,” said Kiesa.

The third part: young voters are stuck now that they’re frustrated with President Obama.
While this may be true for some young voters, Kiesa points out that there are also 17 million first time voters, and both campaigns have an opportunity to speak to them.

“I have been following the campaign, and it seems like the Romney campaign is reaching out to young people unlike McCain. First of all, there is a group called Young Americans for Romney — they send out an email a day. They’re also doing conference calls… they’re trying to have constructive narrative with young people,” said Kiesa.

She also mentioned Crossroads Generation, the “super pac” geared towards engaging young Republicans, which could have significant influence simply because of the amount of money it has.

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