MTV’s Rock the Vote campaign turned heads 20 years ago by combining pop culture and politics. Campaigns realized the 18 to 29-year-old crowd was an untapped goldmine. As a high school student on the verge of voting age, my school wasn’t the only high school to hold mock elections. Rock the Vote generated interest and knowledge for students, and made us feel like we were part of society. With the advent of social media, a new, easy resource for reaching this age group was only a click away, but how well do Illinois’ politicians fare as social networkers?
Rock the Vote 2010
According to a nationwide survey of voters ages 18-29, Rock the Vote found 96 percent of voters are concerned with the unemployment rate in the US. These results closely mirror those of all voters. Also, 56 percent feel more cynical than in 2008. But this isn’t going to keep the demographic from believing their votes count; this group still holds some of its idealism.
Nationwide, 18 to 29-year-old voters are concerned with technology, jobs, and education. Chicago’s candidates don’t seem aware of these priorities when it comes to social networking.
Facebook and Twitter for Current Governor and US Senate Candidates
Examining Tweets and Facebook pages of Illinois’ candidates for governor-Pat Quinn and Bill Brady-and candidates for Senate-Alexi Giannoulias and Mark Kirk-It’s no wonder the NY Times has both listed as toss-ups one month out. I wanted to discover who has more friends and followers and whether the numbers mattered when November rolls around.
Would high school or college students be “friends” or follow any of the candidates? After examining the candidates Facebook pages and Tweets, I doubt the younger 18 to 21 crowd would be likely to follow Giannoulias, Kirk, Quinn, or Brady. The only snippet of personality I gathered was a Tweet from Quinn referencing the Blues Brothers. While a classic movie, I don’t know if any of my students would recognize the names.
While politicians feel the need to tightly control their image, opponents shamelessly kick dirt across their names. Social networks offer candidates an opportunity to connect with followers, share interests and activities that would help form a personal bond. None of Illinois’ governor or senate candidates attempt to be less than perfect in social network communications.
Chicago Voters Ages 18 to 21
Since “children are to be seen and not heard” in society, young voters were ignored because there wasn’t data available for politicians to use in campaigns. In Chicago, it seems they still are ignored. With overall voter turnout down, the group seems to have disappeared. If we can’t get the “responsible” residents of Chicago to the polls, why bother with the “irresponsible” youth?
While my ID claims I don’t belong to the under 29 demographic, teaching allows the opportunity to stay in touch with the millennials. My students and former students reflect the same ideas and fears as their parents and the wider community. The only differences are the generations’ interests and personal tastes.
After graduating from the 18 to 29 age group I didn’t feel any different about what I wanted to know regarding politicians. I like to see a sense of humor and wouldn’t mind discovering which books are candidates’ favorites or what they listen to on their ipods. In Chicago, it appears the younger group is returning to the shadows instead of being tapped as a voting source. When the millennial generation is all of voting age, I wonder how this will change politics.
Rock the Vote. (2010) Retrieved October 3, 2010.
Rock the Vote. (2010, August-September). Rock the Vote Nationwide Tables. Retrieved October 3, 2010.