Links on Youth Voter Turnout and

Organizations Working on Youth Involvement


We have compiled the following set of links to organizations working to boost youth involvement in politics and to studies and other sources of information on youth turnout and political involvement.

Surveys and Reports:

30 Million Missing Voters: A Candidate's Toolkit for Reaching Young Americans, a July 2000 report from the Aspen Institute's Young Voter Initiative with practical advice to candidates about how best to approach young people

Don't Ask, Don't Vote: Young Adults in the 2000 Presidential Primary Season, April 2000.  Examined the way that candidates interacted with young people in their campaign visits, speeches and television advertising in several key media markets from January to March 2000. Its primary authors, Russ Freyman and Brent McGoldrick, were judges in our Why Don't We Vote essay contest. Other reports on young people and the 2000 elections now available from Neglection 2000 .

National Survey on Youth and Civic Engagement, September 1999 . This study of youth voting, conducted by Project Vote Smart , confirms that youth pay less attention to government than older people and are less likely to have registered or to vote. Among its findings, youth place the Internet as the most useful information source, while older respondents rank it sixth.

High Hopes, Little Trust: A Study of Young Workers and Their Ups and Downs in the New Economy, September 1999 .  This survey of young workers, commissioned by the AFL-CIO , shows that 18 to 34 year-olds believe in the American dream and think they can succeed in life. They are the most idealistic age-group, believing that money should be distributed fairly throughout society and that poor families are an important national priority. Their biggest concern is finding more time for work and family. They say they have experienced disappointment and a loss of confidence in their employers and they believe education and training are the way to solve problems and prepare for the future.

America Unplugged: Citizens and Their Government, May 1999.  From the Council for Excellence in Government , this survey looks at the relationship between citizens of all ages and their government. In its age-group analysis, the study found that the youngest age-group (18-25 year-olds) feels the most disconnected from government, yet is also the most likely to say the government should provide help.

New Millennium Project: American Youth Attitudes on Politics, Citizenship, Government and Voting, February 1999.  From the National Association of Secretaries of State, a survey focused on youth civic participation. In 1972, 50% of 18-25 year-olds voted, but only 32% voted in 1996. The analysis in this survey shows that age and education are the most predictive variables in determining whether a young individual will vote. It noted the importance of youth civic participation in socialization: youth who are exposed to parents, schools, and community institutions that encourage political participation are far more likely to participate.

Roper Public Pulse: Generation X, December 1998.  The December 1998 study by Roper Starch Worldwide looked at the attitudes of 18 to 33 year-olds. This study concluded that, while youth are less satisfied with their current situation than older people, they are more optimistic about the future than the older generation. This study also showed that Generation X relies more on television and the Internet for news than on printed material. In addition, youth are more interested in the entertainment value of these media than on the information conveyed.

New Leadership for a New Century: Key Findings from a Study on Youth, Leadership, and Community Service, August 1998This study by Public Allies refines views of the increased participation in and value placed on service by today's youth. The 18 to 30 year-olds surveyed place an emphasis on individuals rather than institutions, held diversity and reaching out to different populations in high regard, and placed a premium on direct service to their community. For these young people, the leadership paradigm is bottom up and inclusive, rather than top down and charismatic.

Young People's Community Involvement Survey: Report on the Findings, June 1998.  See http://coach.dosomething.org/c3 or contact RPrasad@dosomething.org for a summary of the research done.  From the organization Do Something , this survey looked at youth volunteerism and volunteer leadership patterns. While it did not look at political involvement at all, its analysis of young people's propensities to volunteer and the connections between initial community involvement and continued involvement inform discussions of political engagement. Some interesting conclusions of this study are that young people believe they can impact their communities; that their skills are useful to community-based organizations; that the young people who were involved were overwhelmingly the recipients of direct recruitment efforts (through teachers, coaches, friends and family); and that community involvement starts early: the rates of participation in volunteerism do not change much as teens get older. Finally, in examining motivations for community involvement, this survey discovered that the most important factors for young people include being inspired by an organization's leadership, having a chance to participate in key decisions, and seeing the effects of their work.

The Democracy Project: The Youth Vote in 1996 and Beyond, June 1997. Heinz Family Foundation .  Call (202) 737-5652 to request a copy.  This research, conducted before and after the 1996 elections, confirmed America's young adults' disaffection from the political system and their perception of voting as a waste of time. This research showed that stereotypes of Generation X as lazy and apathetic are mistaken and that young people are deeply involved in and concerned about their communities. In particular, these young people's concerns about children may be a force for political mobilization. This study also suggests that electoral reform is not the path to engagement for young people. Rather, a dialogue with young people about politics and their lives is crucial. Young people are most concerned about education, crime, violence and the environment. While these issues are important to youth, they do not translate into political engagement. Many young people make a conscious choice not to vote because they do not see voting as affecting what politicians do and because they believe politicians pay no attention to their concerns. In addition, young people pay relatively little attention to the news and politics. This study recommends several strategies for increasing political participation in this age group, including early political education for children, illustrations of local issues and their relationship to voting and mobilizing around the issues that concern youth.

No-Show '96: Americans Who Don't Vote, July 1996. This report sponsored by Medill News Service and WTTW Television, creators of "YVote 2000: Politics of a New Generation " divided the non-voting population into five groups to illustrate reasons for political disengagement: Doers, Unplugged, Irritables, Don't Knows, and Alienated.

Youth Voices, May 1996. From the Center for Policy Alternatives and Who Cares magazine, this study established Generation X as optimistic and confident about their own lives, yet deeply pessimistic about the direction of the country. This generation feels they have been mislabeled as slackers, when they actually live stressful lives that are short on time. This study found that young people are concerned about issues, particularly the economy, education and crime, which relate to their own future opportunities.

Related Links and Organizations:

BeAVoter.org. Organized by AARP, America Online and MCI WorldCom, this is a non-partisan, non-profit site. Its mission is to use the Internet to increase voter participation.

Democracy Action Project   Organizers of the annual Democracy Summer, DAP builds a national, multi-racial movement of young people dedicated to deepening democracy in the U.S.  DAP educates youth about the growing power of corporations in politics and barriers to the participation of everyday people in government. Furthermore, we help young people understand how these limitations impede all of our work to promote social justice in our communities and globally.  Through our educational programs we work to make democracy in the United States a reality.

Rock the Vote  seeks to protect freedom of expression and help young people realize and utilize their power to create change in the civic and political lives of their communities.

Youth Vote Coalition is one of the nation's largest non-partisan coalitions working to increase the political involvement of millions of Americans, 18-30 years old. The Youth Vote coalition consists of over ninety diverse national organizations representing hundreds of organizations and millions of young people. 

Y2Vote is provided as a public service by the National Association of Secretaries of State and the Federal Voting Assistance Program. The site includes youth-oriented information on elections and voter registration by state as well as links and commercials aimed at encouraging voting.

Youth In Action Campaigns  The Global Youth Action Network (GYAN) is an international collaboration among youth and youth-serving organizations to share information, resources and solutions. Its purpose is to promote greater youth engagement. Youth in Action is the US network of the GYAN with more than 100 youth organizations working to build voice and recognition for young people.

Committee for the Study of the American Electorate   A Washington-based, non-partisan, non-profit research institution with a primary focus on issues surrounding citizen engagement in politics. Its director, Curtis Gans, was a judge in our Why Don't We Vote essay contest.