Allegheny College Report Highlights Innovative Practices of Political Party Committees

What Is Working To Woo Young Voters?

Oct 06, 2004, 01:00 ET from Allegheny College

    MEADVILLE, Pa., Oct. 6 /PRNewswire/ -- This week more than 2,000 political
 party organizations and political scientists from across the country will
 receive a 42-page booklet of practical ideas culled from some of the nation's
 most innovative programs designed to engage young voters.
     For example, in Ventura County, Calif., Democrats set up voting
 registration booths, run in part by young people, at movie theatres during
 showings of Fahrenheit 9/11. Republicans in Cleveland County, Okla., hosted
 social events, such as a "Straw Poll-Pizza and Politics" activity, and gave
 away T-shirts during "Howdy Week," at the beginning of the school year.
     The Fountain of Youth: Political Parties & the Mobilization of Young
 Americans, available online at , is the second piece
 of a national telephone survey of 805 party chairs representing counties
 containing 87 percent of the nation's population.  The study was conducted by
 Professor Daniel M. Shea, Director of the College Center for Political
 Participation at Allegheny College and John C. Green of the Ray C. Bliss
 Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron.  It was commissioned
 by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement
 (CIRCLE) at the University of Maryland.
     The first report of the study -- Throwing a Better Party: Local Mobilizing
 Institutions and the Youth Vote, April 2004 -- suggested that a vast majority
 of local political party chairs are not paying attention to young people, even
 though an overwhelming majority agree that the political disengagement of
 young people is a serious problem and that parties can make a big difference
 involving this group.  In fact, while roughly nine in ten (88 percent) party
 leaders say lack of political engagement among youth is a serious problem, and
 a similar portion (93 percent) feel local parties can make a big difference in
 getting young people involved in politics, only 41 percent are doing anything
 specifically to attract young voters.
     "There was both disturbing and optimistic news in the survey," said Shea.
 "Party organizations have the potential to play a major role in rejuvenating
 participation in America, but many find youth mobilization difficult, so they
 are ignoring this group.  However, while traditional party activities aren't
 working for young people, those party organizations that are trying novel
 programs, such as unique social activities, interactive web sites, and peer-
 to-peer outreach, are having success."
     The second step of the project -- reported here -- was to re-interview
 selected party leaders and to carefully document the programs that seem to be
 working. The Fountain of Youth illustrates examples of successful programs
 used to mobilize the youth vote at the national, state and county
 organizational levels.  In all, ten county committees, seven state committees,
 and both the national party organizations are profiled.  The report concludes
 with a "lessons learned" section of recommendations.
     "In many respects, today's report, which presents detailed case studies of
 some of the most creative organizations we encountered, is more useful than
 the statistical results of the survey. Obviously some groups have already
 written off the young vote, but we believe that's a big mistake. If party
 organizers will roll up their sleeves and mix these ideas with a little
 ingenuity of their own, they can develop strategies and programs that will
 make a big difference," said Shea. "It's not too late."
     Ten Lessons Learned
     Based on their review of best practices by political parties with regard
 to mobilizing young voters, Shea and co-author Green developed a set of
 general lessons for reaching young voters.
      1.  Leadership is extremely important
      2.  Target youth on their turf
      3.  Get young people involved at every opportunity
      4.  Give young volunteers meaningful work
      5.  Make it fun whenever possible
      6.  Make use of different outreach technologies
      7.  Peer-to-peer programs are effective
      8.  Reward achievement
      9.  Merge with like-minded youth groups
      10. Look to combine service with partisanship
     The state and county committees included in the study
      *   The Delaware Democratic Party
      *   The Indiana Republican Party
      *   The Maryland Republican Party
      *   The Michigan Democratic Party
      *   The Mississippi Republican Party
      *   The Wisconsin Democratic Party
      *   The Tennessee Republican Party
      *   Miami-Dade County Democrats, Florida
      *   Cameron County Republicans, Texas
      *   Ventura County Democrats, California
      *   Cleveland County, Republicans, Oklahoma
      *   Story County Democrats, Iowa
      *   Garland County Republicans, Arkansas
      *   Orange County Democrats, North Carolina
      *   Hillsborough County Republicans, Florida
      *   Otero County Republicans, New Mexico
      *   Benton County Democrats, Washington
      Allegheny College, where 2,000 students with unusual combinations of
                      interests, skills and talents excel.

SOURCE Allegheny College