How can we keep young voters engaged?

Farai Chideya

The Democrats and progressives were awash in money in 2004. Some of it went to the right places; some of it did not. How do you know? By using a best-practices model to examine who did what in 2004, how effective those efforts were, how to replicate what worked and how to share resources.

Take the efforts aimed at young Americans. Did marketing-based approaches like Citizen Change’s Vote or Die?” campaign get people to the polls or leave them feeling oversold? Did the League of Pissed Off Voters’ election guides hit their mark? And whose outreach and fundraising models, like MoveOn.org’s, work the best?

This also means rethinking longstanding assumptions. For decades, foundations have said they don’t fund media. Fine. Young Americans don’t read or watch much media, with the exception of The Daily Show.” And for years, news consumption and voting trended downward together. In 2004, voting went up. 

Now is the time to reach those new voters with media that gives them hope, that speaks to them in their language, about their issues, with a sense of humor. Otherwise, they will feel burned — as if they played their part but the system still didn’t work. Good conduits of information will let younger Americans — and all Americans — know that politics doesn’t begin and end on one day every four years. It’s about being a part of your community, dealing with issues both local and global, empowering yourself and caring about the future. 

Technology can help increase efficiency of media production and distribution. For example, no one — yet — is effectively aggregating and distributing youth-oriented and college media about politics and public policy. The nonprofit I founded is trying to help build that infrastructure, and there’s no reason it can’t happen. We can revolutionize the way a disaffected public views political culture. It’s time.

Farai Chideya is founder and editor of Pop and Politics (www​.popand​pol​i​tics​.com).
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