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How to Mobilize Young Voters

Rock the Vote is a leader developing best practices for mobilizing young voters.  If you want to know how to get out the youth vote, we can help.

From traditional campaign tactics - phone calls, canvassing and grassroots outreach – to new tactics – organizing social networks, online advertising, email outreach, and mobile – we’ve got tip on which techniques work to register, engage, and turn out young voters.

Rock the Vote also houses the latest young voter polling, demographic analyses, and turnout figures from recent elections.  For more on those subjects, see Who Are Young Voters?

Training GuideCandidate and Campaign Training (pdf)
December 2011 - Young voters vote when candidates campaign to them.  This presentation contains information about how to best campaign to young voters, engaging them in the political process and getting them to vote on Election Day.

Winning Young Voters ThumbnailWinning Young Voters Handbook (pdf)
April 2008 - Our premier handbook for campaigns, organizations, and parties interested in mobilizing young voters. This handbook contains information about the demographics and voting habits of young adults and best practices for registering and turning out 18-29 year olds to the polls.

New Media TacticsWinning Young Voters: New Media Tactics (pdf)
June 2008 - New media tactics should be a central part of any campaign targeting young voters, but can be confusing for people more familiar with TV advertising, door-knocks, or campaign rallies. “New Media Tactics,” the second in Rock the Vote's series of “Winning Young Voters” handbooks, shows you the basics of how to use new media - email, the Internet, social networks, and mobile phones - to register young voters and get them to the polls.

Results from Rock the Vote’s Young Voter Modeling Project (pdf)
June 2008 - Mobilizing young voters will be key to political campaign strategies in 2008. However, young voters often lack vote history and other traditional targeting information, so understanding which young adults are most likely to vote, and which are most likely to vote Democrat or Republican, must come from other sources and methods. To address this concern, the bipartisan team of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and Public Opinion Strategies conducted an ambitious young voter modeling project for Rock the Vote. See the summary of results or the full report.

Re-Registering Young Movers with Direct Mail and Email (pdf)
July 2008 - Young voters’ residential mobility means many voters under 30 who registered in 2004, 2006 or even for the 2008 primaries would not be eligible to vote in the 2008 General Election unless they re-register to vote at their new addresses. Therefore, re-registering these previously registered voters makes a vital contribution to maintaining and increasing young voter participation. To determine if re-registration was effective, Rock the Vote conducted two phases of voter re-registration testing in late 2007 and early 2008 among voters under 30. The preliminary results from both phases of testing indicate that mail and email based re-registration is a cost-effective strategy for increasing young voter participation.

Text Message Experiments in 2008 (pdf)
November 2008 - A short presentation with preliminary results from Rock the Vote's 2008 text message experiments, as well as information on its polling place GOTV test with Google for the general election. The text program in Georgia increased early voting by 4 percentage points over the control group, and text messages used in combination with direct mail or email were effective at boosting registration application return rates. Our GOTV testing during the primaries showed that the day before the election is the best day to send the message, and that including the Secretary of State's office phone number does not boost turnout.

Text Message Registration Reminders (ppt)
June 2008 - During the 2008 primaries Rock the Vote tested a text message program that reminded young voters of their state's registration deadline. Using an experimental design we found that thee reminder increased registration rates of people who downloaded registration forms by 4 percentage points in both Pennsylvania and Indiana. The reminder was particularly effective for those who downloaded their form within a final week of the deadline.

Young Voter Mobilization Tactics II (pdf)
June 2007 - Going into the 2006 elections, campaigns and parties knew it would be crucial to turn out every supporter on Election Day – and they put the money and people-power into target races to make it happen. What was a change from recent elections, however, was that an increased number of campaigns and coordinated state efforts targeted young voters in 2006. Overall, 2006 youth outreach efforts proved that if you work the youth vote, it works. Our findings indicate that person-to-person outreach, candidate and experienced staff involvement, strategic use of online social networks, and list-building efforts contributed to increased turnout of young voters and to the success of many 2006 campaigns.

Young Voter Mobilization Tactics (pdf)
January 2007 - For campaigns and nonprofits: a compilation of electoral field research, including the effectiveness and cost per vote turned out by canvassing, volunteer phone calls, robocalls, direct mail, email, and more. Conducted with the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE).

Top Ten Tips to Mobilize Young Voters (pdf)
June 2007 - Political campaigns can effectively bring young voters to the polls by integrating a few simple tactics in their normal campaign activities.

Partisanship: A Lifelong Loyalty that Develops Early (pdf)
February 2007 - Several studies and electoral history show that partisanship develops in early adulthood – the youth vote years. Young adults are more likely than older adults to identify as Independent, a commonsense situation for a group of voters new to politics. Because early adulthood is a time when partisan leanings are forming, young adults are ripe for outreach from political parties and organizations. And a person’s party identification, once formed, remains remarkably stable over a lifetime.

Voting is a Habit (pdf)
February 2007 - One of the most robust empirical regularities discovered in political science is that past voting behavior is a good predictor of future voting behavior. In both 2004 and 2006 young voter turnout increased compared to past election cycles. In other words, millions more young adults have voted in past elections and have begun to become habitual voters. Looking ahead to 2008, young voters are likely to turn out in increased numbers once again.