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A campaign’s GOTV guide for getting the youth to vote

By:  Lakshmi Narayanan

The older generation always outperforms the younger generation at the polls. In the 2016 U.S. elections, the elders contributed to 49% of the votes, while being only 43% of the population.

The youth, in this context, consist of the Gen Zs - those who are between 18 to 20 years of age and the Millennials - between 21 to 36 years (as on election day).

This segment of the electorate is fundamentally different from your older population - a difference that is starkly highlighted by their low turnout rates.

How are the ‘youth’ different from the older generation of voters?
a) They are relatively ‘new’ or first-time voters

Since the voters are so young, this could very well be their first polling experience. Indeed, a lot of these voters would not even be registered to vote. They would be even less informed about the polling process and will find it quite difficult to navigate.

What does this mean for your GOTV campaign?

The messaging for your GOTV efforts should be tailored to help these voters prepare to cast a vote. It could be checking if they have registered to vote (and helping them if they haven’t), or sending them information on their polling locations, or quite simply offering them a ride on polling day.
b) They prefer different channels of communication

While phone calls have always been hailed as a highly effective channel of communication (especially for GOTV), this segment of the electorate favor texts more than calls. The turnout rate for this age group was almost 8% higher when texted.

What does this mean for your GOTV campaign?
If you are still relying only on phone calls to get this segment of the electorate to vote, it is high time you included texting into the mix. You can either send a broadcast SMS to every voter in your list or have a personal one on one conversation with them, using peer to peer texts.
Texts are faster and less invasive than calls, and so is more appealing to the youth.

c) They feel more strongly on certain issues than others
No, the youth are not apathetic towards everything. They are more involved in social issues than any other generation were in their time. They are more interested in environmental and social issues. The only catch is - they prefer to resort to activism rather than voting to bring about change.

What does this mean for your GOTV campaign?
Again, it comes to messaging. Communicate the issues your candidate stands for and convey what change electing them would bring. Ensure that each of your messages talks about how achieving change through politics is possible - and how voting is the first step in getting there.

What then, is a winning GOTV strategy to get the youth to vote?

The regular mechanics of a GOTV campaign remain the same - voter identification, voter outreach, followed by election day campaigning. It is just that in each of these stages, you have to tailor your outreach to include aspects we discussed above.

Phase 1- Identification
Your goal is not to just build a list of supporters to reach your win number. It is to collect more information to help you run targeted campaigns later.

Eg. You can ask a contact if they are a first-time voter, or if they have registered to vote. In the event the voter has not registered, you can instantly text them the website link where they can do so.
Other information like what issues matter to the voter and whom they are likely to support are all necessary to capture in this phase.

Phase 2 - Voter contact
On the week before election day, text the voters with information that will help them cast their vote. It could be the details of their polling location or more info about the candidate to help them make up their mind.

A well-informed voter is more likely to vote. You can leverage your Super Voters to run peer to peer texting campaigns to better inform the youth in your supporter list.

Interestingly, social pressure is a powerful motivator that encourages youth to show up at the polls. You can work that into your script: “We may call you after elections to ask about your voting experience,” to use for your campaigns.

Phase 3 - Election day
Run targeted social media ads and texting campaigns to reach your supporter group. Based on the information from your poll watchers, ask your volunteers to do personalized follow ups with the no-shows using peer to peer campaigns. As before texting would be more effective, rather than the usual calling campaigns.

Ultimately getting youth to vote is about engaging them with targeted content via a personal channel (like texts).

Lakshmi Narayanan helps campaigns with their messaging and outreach via CallHub. You can reach her at lakshmi@callhub.io. Or you can try CallHub free to see how it can help your GOTV efforts.

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