Round and round

Circle_Logo_1The Bus is a big fan of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, aka CIRCLE, which, really, is a way better name. CIRCLE is the go-to research organization that tracks young people in public life. If you’ve read any stats about youth voting, there’s a very good chance that they originated on the bucolic greens of the Tufts University-based CIRCLE.

So what are they up to now? Still taking names, still blowing minds, basically. Their latest study goes in-depth into actual turnout numbers from the 2008 general election, aka the Big One.

Some of their findings are encouraging – young people voted in ridiculously large numbers (upwards of 2 million), and young African Americans voted in the highest percentage of any racial or ethnic group of young Americans since 1972. However, they also point out some serious challenges facing youth voting, particularly the disparity between young people with college education, and those without.

According to CIRCLE’s research, 62% of young people with some college experience filled out their ballots. In contrast, just 36% of young people without college experience voted. That’s a huge difference, and it raises questions about how voter registration get-out-the-vote drives are conducted.

Neck and neck - via CIRCLE

Neck and neck - via CIRCLE

Education and voter turnout have been correlated for years. The percentage difference between college and non-college young voters has fluctuated roughly between 25-30% since 1972, meaning that even in surge years like 2008, both populations increase by roughly the same amount.

Many of the voter registration and GOTV programs that work with young people have two drawbacks: they’re campaign-based, and they focus on campuses. Neither is bad, but if they’re the only access points, it leaves a lot of folks out.

One of the key questions for building a sustainable democracy is how to close this gap – in an era when higher education is increasingly moving out of the reach of middle-income families (tuition is going up by potentially 28% over two years here in Washington), it’s imperative that we develop an answer to this question.

It’s not enough to engage only the people that are easy to engage. In a campaign calculus, they’re the first group to be eliminated from outreach plans, which means it’s up to the rest of us to do it year round.


3 Responses to “Round and round”

  1. 1 Skyzoo
    May 11, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    Um. So is anything changing? Or will it be more of the same?

  2. May 12, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    Good question – the answer has never been more in our hands that is it RIGHT NOW. The Bus is all ears, hella ears. How would you create a campaign to get out the youth vote? The Bus is a vote magnet – we are going to use the force- and want you on our team. Powercorps to the People- People to the http://tinyurl.com/powercorps.

  3. 3 washingtonbus
    May 12, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    As a matter of fact, the Bus is doing something about it! One of the reasons we do so much out reach in high schools is that it’s the largest and most representative group of young people. And all our programs are targeted specifically to young people regardless of school status (particularly PowerCorps).

    Also, we’re going to be doing a GOTV program this summer that will break some of the campus/non-campus paradigms. Look for more info in the future!

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