Pop Culture Endorsements And Young Voter Participation: An Analysis

1622 words - 6 pages

OVERVIEWLike a bizarre game of musical chairs, both Democrats and Republicans are scrambling to capture the votes of America's young adults. Comprising more than 17 percent of the entire U.S. electorate, 18- to 24-year-olds have become a commodity to political strategists regardless of their elephant or donkey persuasion. However, of the limited non-partisan groups striving to motivate young voters, few could adequately compete with MTV'sRock the Vote, created by recording artists in 1990.Studies conclude that motivating young voters is dependent upon a variety of factors. Tindell and Medhurst (1998) identified four factors most likely to affect the vote/no vote decision for young voters - a sense of duty, perceived personal benefits from the election's outcome, personal concern over the election's outcome and a group's perceived effect on the election's outcome. Their study concluded that Rock the Vote met each of these four criteria and were able to turn out more than 17 million young adults in the 1992 general election.While Rock the Vote touted its purported victory of a 6.5 percent increase from the 1988 general election in voter turnout among 18- to 24-year-olds, numbers from ensuing elections indicate that since the 1992 general election, the numbers are dwindling. In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that the 2000 general election hit an all-time low for voters in this age group.NEW STRATEGIESAccording to an article in Contemporary Sexuality (2002), research indicates that viewers of MTV programming were unable to easily identify with candidates during mid-term elections. Stephen Freidman, an MTV executive said, "If we talk about the importance of voting in and of itself, it falls flat." The solution: use sex.Couched in terms of sex education and issue awareness, MTV aired a 'Fight for Your Rights' special entitled "Sex in the Classroom," on Oct. 3, 2002. The show contrasted abstinence-only programs and virginity pledges with comprehensive sex education programs by including poll findings in the special and linking it to political activism. Public service announcements on oral sex ran during the hour as well.Despite the efforts of MTV to use sex in an attempt to "turn young voters on" to the idea of participating in the 2002 mid-term election, election results indicated a continued decline.Journal of Housing & Community Development (2004) states that while MTV'sRock the Vote is widely known and highly visible in its efforts, its target audience continues to be the group least likely to vote. As such, other groups are stepping up to the plate hoping to lure young adults into electoral participation. One such group, the State Public Interest Rights Group (PIRG), hopes to use a grant from Pew Charitable Trust to impact young voter turnout in six states during the 2004 election cycle. Their strategy is to combine their grass-roots 'know how' with other youth-focused groups such as 'Rock the Vote,' World Wrestling Entertainment and...


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