Youth For The Win! (YFTW) Series: The MySpace Election


Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and Democracy Corps
Democracy Corps

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Executive Summary

A new Democracy Corps/Greenberg Quinlan Rosner survey of youth voters shows fundamental differences in how young people experience and participate in the 2008 elections. This survey, the first this year of a series of YFTW projects designed to track young people’s involvement in the 2008 election, shows young people deeply engaged in the election. This is not a surprise. Turnout increased among young people in 2004 and 2006 election cycles, and turnout in early the Democratic primaries this year shows an astonishing increase of 88 percent. It is also increasingly clear that young people are experiencing and participating in this election in a different way. This is a generation that grew up with the Internet; They not only follow the election on-line, but largely participate in the election on-line as well. Perhaps most striking, fully two-thirds of America’s youth are subscribers to MySpace, Facebook or both, and 14 percent have “friended” one of the presidential candidates through these social websites.

Key Findings

  • Young people will vote in record numbers in 2008. A majority (54 percent) describe their likelihood of voting as a “ten” on a ten-point scale and 72 percent say their likelihood of voting is an 8, 9 or 10. In the 2000 general election, only 40 percent of young people voted. That number increased to 49 percent in 2004. The reason why young people are increasingly committed to the franchise is very simple and direct: They feel the country is off on the wrong track and believe they can do something about it in this election. This narrative and suspension of cynicism is critical to sustaining the on-going energy of the youth vote.
  • The Internet is the primary vehicle through which young people both follow and participate in the elections. Unlike the general public, where television news remains the primary source of electoral information, the Internet drives coverage among youths. Homepage internet sites like AOL.com compete with news sites (like MSNBC.com) as the favored specific sources. In other words, Yahoo has a bigger voice with this voting bloc than CNN and NBC.
  • When it comes to participating in the election, most of it takes place on-line. These activities can vary from blogging about politics (14 percent), to viral activities like forwarding a campaign ad (15 percent) to signing up as a friend of a candidate (14 percent).
  • This survey also tracked young people’s political preferences, which we will release in a separate report in a few days.

Methodology

Between March 30 and April 9, 2008, Democracy Corps and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research interviewed 602 young people, ages 18-29. This project looks at the wider population of young people and does not exclude non-voters or unlikely voters. As this population is very difficult to survey, this project involved a multi-mode design including cell phone interviewing (60 interviews), web based research (300 interviews) and telephone surveys (242 interviews) using a random digit dial sample.