Voting for Barack Obama in 2008 and playing a role in history was a no-brainer for more than half of the 18- to 24-year-old African-Americans who were eligible to vote and turned out in record numbers. But now that they’ve been there and done that, will they do it again in 2012?
Not without increased mobilization efforts, according to a “Youth, Race and Voter Mobilization” study released Thursday by the Black Youth Project as part of a series on political engagement titled Democracy Remixed: Black Youth and the Future of American Politics. Turnout rates are 15 percent to 30 percent higher among young adults aged 18 to 29 when they’re motivated to participate in politics; in 2008, both the Republican and Democratic parties, for the first time, mobilized a larger percentage of young Blacks than whites by 32 to 24 percent. Interestingly, the GOP contacted young Black voters about 10 percent more frequently than they did whites and Latinos. However, third parties, such as social, civic and religious organizations, were responsible for mobilizing 80 percent of young people.
Although traditional forms of communication, such as flyers and phone calls, were used in 2008, the study also found that social networking is one of the most effective ways to reach out to large numbers of young voters because they are less well-connected to formal and informal institutions.
“We envision that e-mail, text messaging and other forms of electronic communication will become increasingly important mobilization tools,” the study’s authors wrote. “Of course, this development also raises questions about how access to digital media is distributed across age groups and how differential levels of access affect levels of mobilization and subsequent patterns of turnout.”
Although studies show that “voter turnout is habit forming,” they add, without a Democratic primary this year and the fact that some voters may be disappointed that Obama’s policies did not deliver the change they believed in four years ago, community and other local organizations will need to step up their game.
“Not only should local and national organizations undertake their own mobilization efforts, they also should encourage people to engage their friends, family, colleagues and classmates in conversations about politics and impress upon them the importance of voting,” the report states. “The outcome of the 2012 election may just depend on it.”
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(Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
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