My MA thesis involves exploring the relative effectiveness of various messages designed to encourage youth to vote. I started researching this topic back last May when my initial thesis proposal was due, but was not able to give it a great deal of time due to my coursework requirements (the other significant element of my MA). Now, the coursework is over for me and I get to concentrate on this one issue.
Although I am looking at a national perspective, I have perhaps found some interesting insights for people seeking to encourage youth to vote in our next civic election in Kamloops.
In 2008, I spent a few hundred dollars and a lot of my time campaigning for a council seat at TRU. Most people involved in my campaign think that effort was largely wasted and inefficient. I did meet some great young people, but not enough.
So what does my research so far suggest?
First, more youth might vote if it is made easier for them. If, for example, City Hall put a polling station or two at TRU or in other places youth congregate, more youth might participate in the election. Perhaps, we could look at providing free transit on election day.
Second, more youth might vote if government was more important to them and seemed more relevant to their lives. This sounds like a pretty obvious truth. The question becomes how can government assume more important and relevance. Non partisan education can help. Also, if the noble parts of government were given some prominence. The media often sees it's role as holding politicians to account, but if more attention was given to highlighting and praising good work, some of the research suggests young people ( and likely many adults) might be interested in paying more attention. There is too much emphasis on the bad things that happen in government.
Third, well organized outreach and mobilization campaigns may help. If a group of young people got together to encourage and, in fact, organize their friends and colleagues to go vote, it could have real impact.
My research is in a preliminary stage. Hopefully, will have more to say.