Celebrity Power Boosts Youth Engagement In US

If America’s young people have had anything in common with their British counterparts over the years, staying away from elections used to be pretty near the top of the list.

But the last decade has seen a drastic change in how young people in the US engage with politics.

In the 2000 presidential election, 40% of 18-29 year olds voted – eight years later, 51% did.

The credit for that is often given to non-profit, non-partisan groups like “Project Vote” and, most famously of all, “Rock The Vote” (RTV).

Since the mid-90s, RTV has used celebrity power, grassroots campaigning and new technology to encourage young people to register and vote in every election.

Its aim has always been to give young people a way to find out about issues that affect them and then take action by using the power of political process.

The voter registration drive in 2008 was the biggest in history and generated a staggering 2.25 million new applications.

But backing from the likes of Miley Cyrus, Justin Timberlake, Madonna, Leonardo DiCaprio and P Diddy can only do so much.

A headline earlier this year told us that “2014 could be a watershed year for youth voting participation”.

But a poll from Harvard University found that less than a quarter of young adults planned to vote in this November’s mid-term elections.

True, the mid-terms might not be that exciting but even in the presidential election of 2012, we saw a dip in turn-out among the young.

The Obama buzz had died down, the economic crisis was hitting everyone.

Getting people engaged is one thing – keeping them engaged is another – and turn-out remains by far the lowest among young people.

A group called Civic Youth found that the biggest reason young people didn’t vote, even when they were registered to, was that they were too busy.

The next most popular reason was that they were “not interested” or felt their vote would not count.

But in 2012 Barack Obama won some key swing states because of votes from the young. He lost among the over-45s but took the states anyway.

It was the perfect demonstration of just how those votes can count.

Young people can have their say on any other issue affecting them by uploading a short video or blog post to Stand Up Be Counted.

Backed by politicians and celebrities alike, the website already contains dozens of clips and articles on topics ranging from e-voting, exam results and equality to mental health, the environment and the impact of social media.

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11 September 2014 | 12:53 am – Source: orange.co.uk

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