Gen Y: How the young vote was won

(LIN) — Americans spend a lot of time behind a screen.  Computers, TV, phones and tablets – if it flashes, tweets, or communicates with friends or entertains in any way, we’re an easy sell.

And everyone running for office this year took advantage, blaring advertisements on TV, YouTube, Facebook and other social media networks.

One size doesn’t fit all, though. To get the young vote, candidates had to get more creative than a 10-second ad before a YouTube video of the honey badger.

This year, many attempts were made to get young voters to the polls, and it seemed to work.

A survey by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) showed that 22-23 million young Americans (ages 18-29), or at least 49 percent went to the polls Tuesday, and that number is expected to rise as more post-election information is made available from precincts.

View the complete survey here

In 2004, 2008, and 2012 turnout has been in the vicinity of 50 percent each time for this age group, compared to just 37 percent in 1996 and 41 percent in 2000.

In the months leading up to the presidential election, MTV ‘s “Power of 12” campaign tailored messages to the 18-29 year-old voting bloc, pushing candidate profiles, information on how to vote and encouraged young voters to talk about what matters to them. In the final weeks of his campaign, President Barack Obama spent an hour on MTV answering questions from young viewers about what he could bring to the presidency.

Another way young voters were reached during the campaign was social media.

Throughout the 2012 presidential campaign, it was easy to ignore the negative advertising and look forward to the day when it would all be over. But when it came to Election Day, people wanted everyone to know they did their civic duty.

On Facebook, users logged in on Tuesday to see a box at the top of their news feed asking if they plan to vote. A button directing users to their polling place was prominently displayed as well.

Once users clicked the “I’m voting,” their response was recorded and plotted on a map.

Facebook tracked not only the location of voters, but their age group as well, showing that two-thirds of all Facebook users who used this poll were under 35. Those between the ages of 18 and 24 made up 30 percent of the voters, while those 25 to 34 made up 32 percent.

Researcher James Fowler explained to, “Facebook caused an extra third of a million people to vote. To put that number in context, remember that the 2000 U.S. Presidential Election was won by a margin of just 537 votes in Florida.”

Foursquare users also got an “I Voted” pin when using #ivoted when checking in to their polling place. (Absentee voters could still use the hashtag to get the pin.)


According to the CIRCLE survey, young voters favored Obama by a 24-point margin. The study also postulates that if Romney had won half the youth vote in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia — or if young people had stayed home all together — Romney would have won those key battleground states. Those four states account for 80 electoral votes, which would have changed the outcome of the election .

Though this election is over, the next four years will quickly pass and new candidates will come to the surface for the 2016 election.

Now is the time for those campaigns to consider the gravity of the young vote and consider the return on time spent reaching them on their playing fields.

It could be the deciding factor in the next election.

Gen Y is a weekly opinion piece covering issues that matter most to younger, influential voters through their late 30s. Jessica O. Swink, a 20-something, is the digital political producer for LIN Media and contributing editor to onPolitix.

Copyright 2014 LIN TV News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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