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Friday, May 6, 2011

Mobilizing Youth Voters: just fracking give us something to vote about!

This post originally appeared here:


Another good piece, this time at the Ottawa Citizen, although it's much more skeptical about youth actually coming out and voting, which I hate. I wouldn't call youth "elusive."

"The jury is out to a certain extent on what ultimately are the causes of youth-declining voter turnout," says Keith Archer, a political science professor at the University of Calgary.
"The parties have been slow in reaching out to young voters where they may pay attention to politics."

I would say that that's it exactly. There are campaign signs all over the city but none on my university campus. And young people who go and actually look at the party platforms come away without any burning desire to elect anyone, because most of the issues just don't apply. It's not that youth don't care about who's running our country, it's that we don't care about most of the issues on the party platforms. The fact that promises directed towards young people are almost entirely absent erases us from public discourse on electoral politics and alienates us from electoral politics.

So, how will parties get young adults to care, and in turn, get them to the ballot box?
The Conservative party hopes to engage younger adults by treating them like any other voter, rather than pander to specific demographics.
The party no longer has a youth wing, and a spokesman says it's up to individual campaigns to reach out to younger voters in their ridings.

This is exactly NOT what to do if you want to gain support among young people. The Conservatives have a stable amount of support from the kind of young people who always vote no matter what, it's true. But that kind of tactic isn't going to win them many more new voters. For all of their desire not to "pander to specific demographics," most of their platform seems to be aimed at young families, and the number of voters under 25 who have young children is not that big. They also target seniors--I think young families and seniors already form the core demographics behind their support, so this makes sense. But you can't get youth voters by "treating us like any other voter," you have to reach out, because literally no plank of the Tory platform would make any difference in my life.

Green party leader Elizabeth May says the commonly held belief that "young people don't vote" has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Her party is spending time on campuses with its youth wing, as well as using social media to communicate with tech-savvy youngsters.

See, THIS is what you need to do in order to attract new youth voters. I've already mentioned that the Green Party have by far done the best job at reaching out to young people. In order to get young people to vote for you, you have to (1) campaign directly to them, and (2) make sure you campaign on issues that they care about. Elizabeth May is winning at this.

I don't know. This reminds me more and more of the movie The Trotsky, where all the adults believe the students are apathetic, but in the end it turns out they were just bored and with enough of a push they were mobilized into activism. Actually, I think maybe they should have a screening of that movie in each party HQ.

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