The Millennial Generation During Presidential Election Years

December 20, 2013 in News

What motivates the youth to volunteer and work for political campaigns? Additionally, what gets them to persuade their peers and members of communities to vote and get involved? Millennials play an important role in campaigns. Why do they keep coming back to the long hours and treacherous work with little rewards and little pay in political campaigns? Is it because they are passionate about a particular presidential candidate? Is it out of peer pressure? 

“Millennials” is a broad term.  It is essentially a person that reaches the age of young adulthood around the millennium generation of 2000. This age group has changed the way volunteering in campaigning has become. which authors Greenberg and Weber claim, “are history’s most active volunteering generation” and essentially builds a progressive, fair society through an emphasis on community participation.  So, why is the millennial generation so involved in campaigns — more so than past generations? Reasons include: peer pressure, empowerment by a particular candidate, or, for a requirement.  Take UCLA, for example, who requires their students to have “extensive leadership and initiative in school and/or community organizations and activities.”

Overall, there is a predominantly negative image of young people today, as they are represented as apathetic, self-centered, and uninterested in others’ needs. However, over time, young people have become involved in single-issue politics and campaigning. Community groups, self-help groups, and single issue pressure groups are growing, and scholars have discovered that after surveying a variety of young people, they were involved in some form of volunteering, campaigning, and social action.

According to authors Peter Leyden and Ruy Teixeira, the “Millennial Generation” is becoming the most common name for “young people born roughly in the decades of the 1980s and 1990s, who are pouring out of college right now.” This generation utilizes the newest, latest, and greatest technologies and strategies for campaigns and put them to use in their grassroots efforts. Contrary to the individualistic risk-takers like the Boomers or the Generation X’ers and their general disengagement with issues, Millennials are “civic-minded, politically engaged, and hold values long associated with progressives, such as concern about economic inequalities, they hold a desire for a more multilateral foreign policy, and a strong belief in government. Volunteerism is at a peek with millennials. Most of these volunteers hold progressive world-views, which causes them to vote more heavily Democratic than other generations.

2008 (politically) was the year of the youth. It was a monumental year for volunteers in campaigns because various research findings suggest that those that participated in the 2008 election are much more likely to participate in later civic and political activities. However, up until the 2000 election, youth voter turnout was “decreasing at a higher rate than among the rest of the American population.” According to author Dana Fisher, young people who come from families with higher levels of socioeconomic status tend to talk about politics more regularly, vote more frequently, and be more generally engaged. On the contrary, young people from less privileged background participate less and are less engaged overall.

Technology and social media are two ways in which young people have been most effective in campaigns. By technology, I mean cell phones, the Internet, social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, and other campaign social media tools such as National Field. Therefore, a probable reason that the youth has become engaged in volunteering for campaigns is because of Web 2.0, which is a combination of all of these social media tools. Effectively, those volunteers that utilize Web 2.0 are more likely to attend the events for which they promote than those that were asked by family or friends to do so. Volunteers heavily utilized Web 2.0 in 2008 and this was the year where youth turnout was ranked as one of the highest ever reported. Campaign volunteering increased mostly in young Americans. Young people even organized house meetings, phone banks, went door-to-door canvassing and organized canvases in support of their candidates, and while the young people were generally becoming more involved in campaigning, it was mostly for Democratic candidates, particularly President Obama.

The Obama and McCain campaigns both ran online meetup-style components of their websites for volunteers to take action, and this was the first time that these types of e-tools were made available to mobilize and engage people. Which was the most user-friendly and transparent for users that were new at becoming involved? The answer is the Obama campaign’s website. The Obama campaign knew that it could engage the  youth and also knew that it needed to market in a way that intrigued the youth. This was beneficial for the local level because if people expressed interest in participating in an Obama-type event, the dates and times of the events that were taking place five miles of their location, as well as information about the organizer and registration was readily made available. They would receive an email notification about their RSVP, and then the organizer got in touch with each individual personally. On the contrary, the McCain campaign implemented a less straightforward strategy. Participants could only pull up events within a wider radius and their RSVP was sent to an ether of cyperspace. These events generated fewer volunteers. Fisher argues that there has been significant attention to the numbers of people mobilized to participate in the campaign as volunteers, as the campaign trained around 3000 full time organizers that were “mostly in their 20’s, it organized thousands of local leadership teams, and it engaged some 1.5 million people in coordinated volunteer activity.” The campaign technology and communication were both crucial innovative tools in this election.  Similarly, the Bush campaign of 2004 used the Internet to mobilize supporters on college campuses to compete with other schools, and users of mybarackobama.com were awarded points for taking actions that included calling voters, canvassing, fundraising, and hosting events. The volunteers in the Obama campaign were more diverse than those in the McCain campaign, and the youth were more likely to utilize Web 2.0, which essentially elected Barack Obama as president. The effect of this campaign led to a mobilizing force called Organizing for America, which backs candidates that support Barack Obama even on off-election years, and to this day, the youth are still involved in Organizing for America, which supports President Obama’s message.

 An immense number of young people are involved with YouthVote, which is a coalition of nonpartisan, nonprofit groups committed to increasing voter turnout among citizens aged 18-90 (Nickerson, 2006). They use phone banks, canvassing, and direct mail strategies specifically geared towards the youth and the volunteers place themselves on college campuses. An example of a YouthVote activity is the Boulder YouthVote Coalition, which utilized individualism particularly young people to fulfill community service hours that were mandatory. Unlike the Obama campaign, they were forced to volunteer. While volunteering, the millennials found a sense of fulfillment within themselves and realized the effect it had on the other young person he or she was talking to that was also a member of the millennial because he or she was able to relate to the other millennial.

The 2004 election is another example of the millennials’ strong participation.  Prior to 2004, youth participation was on the decline. In 2004, organizations and programs such as Rock the Vote and Choose or Lose, Just votenow.org, New Voters Project, Smack Down Your Vote!, and Youth Vote Coalition reached out to the youth to bring them back to the polls and get them involved (Shea, 2007). Schools started teaching their students the importance of their obligations in a democracy and civic skills. Students started becoming more involved in college parties clubs such as College Republicans or College Democrats. During this time, it was still a struggle for local parties to mobilize the youth to participate, but they were improving from previous elections. Parties started to realize that former and more traditional GOTV efforts were ineffective with the new generation so the parties started coming up with more innovative ways rather than simply handing out voter registration cards. These ways included house meetings, one-to-ones, and different voter registration techniques. State parties, such as the Delaware Democratic Party, also began to reach out to the youth in more effective ways. They increased their number of youth outreach programs, and had voter registration drives that were targeted to the youth, while also working with other organizations by having joint events (Shea, 2007). The Delaware Young Democrats participated in service projects, which drew in the youth because of the subject matter on which they focused. For example, the Young Democrats conducted a service project with AIDS Delaware, which was a prominent issue and still is among young people.

                While the millennial generation tends to have negative connotations for having a lack of motivation or desire to help the community, they have been the most effective at organizing Get Out the Vote efforts, volunteering for long hours, and getting their peers to volunteer with them. Reasons include the use of Web 2.0, the empowerment of candidates that speak to the issues for which the millennial generation care, and local and state powers have found innovative ways to get them involved in their communities and make a difference in elections. Overall, the millennial generation has had a positive effect on volunteering efforts in campaigns, and has even had a powerful effect on the actual outcome of elections.

 

Below is a section of research that focuses on what motivates the millennial generation to volunteer for campaigns and each article discusses a particular election where there was a high amount of millennial participation, and also discusses reasons that motivate the millennial generation to keep volunteering.

________________________________________________________________________

Fisher, Dana. 2006. Activism Inc. Stanford University Press.

                In this book, Fisher discusses the power of canvassing, the problem of outsourcing politics, and the power of the grassroots campaigns, such as Greenpeace and the Sierra Club. She focuses on the Left and the importance of starting political work at the local level. She also discusses why people that are passionate about politics might become tiresome due to the outsourcing in progressive politics.

 

Leyden, Peter and Ruy Teixeira. 2007. “The Progressive Politics of the Millennial Generation.” NewPolitics.net.

                This article looks at the Millennial Generation and how it is moving more progressive. It notes that volunteerism is booming with the Millennials and their values and worldviews are quickly becoming progressive. Finally it discusses what will happen in the future with the Millennial Generation, and the wide array of new media available for progressives.        

Little, Ben. 2009. “The millennial generation and politics: the challenge of the ipod generation to politics.” Soundings: 42.

                This article discusses how the current millennial generation has been known as the generation of iPods, the lost generation, and as being materialistic, feckless, etc. There are some people in this generation that are detached from politics, but there are also those that are concerned about the future, and become active in single-issue campaigns. This article discusses activism and the way that journalists and academics observe these activists.

Nickerson, David. 2006. “Volunteer Phone calls Can Increase Turnout: Evidence from Eight Field Experiments.” American Politics Research: 34(271) Retrieved from http://apr.sagepub.com/content/34/3/271

  In this article, Nickerson refutes the idea that get-out-the-vote phone calls do not increase voter turnout by discussing the strategies used in 2004. He argues that get-out-the-vote phone calls are effective if the quality of the calls is strong. Overall, nonpartisan, volunteer GOTV phone calls are most effective at mobilizing voters and voters registered by students making the calls were no more motivated to vote than people who never had any previous contact from the campaign. Moreover, students in active political student groups are effective at mobilizing voters.

Roker, Debi, and Katie Player and John Coleman. 1999. “Young people’s voluntary and campaigning activities as sources of political education.” Oxford Review of Education: 25(1&2)

This article exams the image of young people and how they are known as alienated, apathetic, and uninvolved in general. However, it also examines young people’s involvement involuntary and campaigning activities and it looks at a survey regarding volunteering and campaigning. Finally, it finds a correlation between campaigning and volunteering and one’s political knowledge after volunteering or campaigning.

Shea, Daniel M. and John C. Green. 2007. “The Case of Young Citizens.” Green, John Clifford, and Daniel J. Coffey. The State of the Parties: The Changing Role of Contemporary American Politics.

                This article discusses different types of politically active groups and different American Party organizations. It mostly discusses what the role of state parties as well as local parties, and their abilities to mobilize young voters to become heavily engaged in the electoral process. Whereas local party leaders are not especially interested in the youth vote, state parties are doing a strong job at engaging the youth to become more involved. Overall, this article does demonstrate the ways that local party committees can have the capacity to mobilize voters, which includes the youth. 

What motivates the youth to volunteer and work for political campaigns? Additionally, what gets them to persuade their peers and members of communities to vote and get involved? This analysis on the youth and campaigns focuses on the millennial generation and the events that influence millennial to work for campaigns, voice their opinions, and continue to come back to the long hours, work of political campaigning. This analysis focuses on the youth’s motivations during presidential years.

                Another way of describing the youth in volunteering efforts is describing them as “millennials,” which authors Greenberg and Weber claim, “are history’s most active volunteering generation” and essentially builds a progressive, fair society through an emphasis on community participation (Little, 2009). The millennial generation tends to be involved for reasons because of pressure, empowerment by a particular candidate, or, for some sort of requirement. For example, UCLA requires their students to have: “Extensive leadership and initiative in school and/or community organizations and activities” (Little, 2009). Overall, there is a predominantly negative image of young people today, as they are represented as apathetic, self-centered, and uninterested in others’ needs. However, over time, young people have become involved in single-issue politics and campaigning (Roker et al., 1999). There are growing amounts of community groups, self-help groups, and single issue pressure groups, and a large amount of findings have discovered that after surveying a variety of young people, they were involved in some form of volunteering, campaigning, and social action. According to authors Peter Leyden and Ruy Teixeira, the “Millennial Generation” is becoming the most common name for “young people born roughly in the decades of the 1980s and 1990s, who are pouring out of college right now” (Leyden and Teixeira, 2007). This generation is able to be kept up to date with the newest technologies and strategies for campaigns and put them to use in their grassroots efforts. Contrary to the individualistic risk-takers like the Boomers or the Generation X’ers and their general disengagement with issues, Millennials are “civic-minded, politically engaged, and hold values long associated with progressives, such as concern about economic inequalities, they hold a desire for a more multilateral foreign policy, and a strong belief in government” (Leyden and Texeira, 2007). Volunteerism is at a peek with millennials, and most of them hold progressive values and worldviews, causing them to vote more heavily Democratic than other generations.

The youth played a significant role in the 2008 campaign to elect President Barack Obama. It was a monumental year for volunteers in campaigns because various research findings suggest that those that participated in the 2008 election are much more likely to participate in recent civic and political activities. However, up until the 2000 election, youth voter turnout was “decreasing at a higher rate than among the rest of the American population” (Fischer, 2012). According to author Dana Fisher, young people who come from families with higher levels of socioeconomic status tend to talk about politics more regularly, vote more frequently, and be more generally engaged. On the contrary, young people from less privileged background participate less and are less engaged overall (Fisher, 122).  One way in which young people have been effective in volunteering in campaigns is through the use of technology and social media. Technology includes cellular phones, the Internet, social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, and other campaign social media tools (Fisher, 2012). Therefore, a possible reason that the youth has become engaged in volunteering for campaigns is because of Web 2.0, which is a combination of all of these social media tools. Effectively, those volunteers that utilize Web 2.0 are more likely to attend the events for which they promote than those that were asked by family or friends to do so. Volunteers heavily utilized Web 2.0 in 2008 and this was the year where youth turnout was ranked as one of the highest ever reported. Campaign volunteering increased mostly in young Americans and young people even organized house meetings, phone banks, went door-to-door canvassing and organized canvases in support of their candidates, and while the young people were generally becoming more involved in campaigning, it was mostly for Democratic candidates, particularly President Obama.

The Obama and McCain campaigns both ran online meetup-style components of their websites for volunteers to take action, and this was the first time that these types of e-tools were made available to mobilize and engage people. However, the Obama site was said to be more user-friendly and transparent for users that were new at becoming involved. This was beneficial for the local level because if people expressed interest in participating in an Obama-type event, the dates and times of the events that were taking place five miles of their location, as well as information about the organizer and registration was readily made available. They would receive an email notification about their RSVP, and then the organizer got in touch personally. On the contrary, the McCain campaign implemented a less straightforward strategy. Participants could only pull up events within a wider radius and their RSVP was sent to an ether of cyperspace. These events generated fewer volunteers. Fisher argues that there has been significant attention to the numbers of people mobilized to participate in the campaign as volunteers, as the campaign trained around 3000 full time organizers that were “mostly in their 20’s, it organized thousands of local leadership teams, and it engaged some 1.5 million people in coordinated volunteer activity” (Fisher, 2012). Overall, the campaign used technology and communication in innovative ways. Similarly, the Bush campaign of 2004 used the Internet to mobilize supporters on college campuses to compete with other schools, and users of mybarackobama.com were awarded points for taking actions that included calling voters, canvassing, fundraising, and hosting events. The volunteers in the Obama campaign were more diverse than in the McCain campaign, and the youth were more likely to utilize Web 2.0, which essentially elected Barack Obama as president. The effect of this campaign led to a mobilizing force called Organizing for America, which backs candidates that support Barack Obama even on off-election years, and to this day, the youth are still involved in Organizing for America, which supports President Obama’s message.

  A large group of the youth is involved with YouthVote, which is a coalition of nonpartisan, nonprofit groups committed to increasing voter turnout among citizens aged 18-90 (Nickerson, 2006). They use phone banks, canvassing, and direct mail strategies specifically geared towards the youth and the volunteers place themselves on college campuses. An example of a YouthVote activity is the Boulder YouthVote Coalition, which utilized individualism particularly young people to fulfill community service hours that were mandatory. Unlike the Obama campaign, they were forced to volunteer (Nickerson, 2006). While volunteering, the millennials found a sense of fulfillment within themselves and realized the effect it had on the other young person he or she was talking to that was also a member of the millennial because he or she was able to relate to the other millennial.

The 2004 election is another example of the millennials’ strong participation.  Prior to 2004, there was a dramatic decline in youth participation and it increased in 2004. In 2004, organizations and programs such as Rock the Vote and Choose or Lose, Just votenow.org, New Voters Project, Smack Down Your Vote!, and Youth Vote Coalition reached out to the youth to bring them back to the polls and get them involved. Schools started teaching their students the importance of their obligations in a democracy and civic skills. Students started becoming more involved in college parties clubs such as College Republicans or College Democrats. During this time, it was still a struggle for local parties to mobilize the youth to participate, but they were improving from previous elections. Parties started to realize that former and more traditional GOTV efforts were ineffective with the new generation so the parties started coming up with more innovative ways rather than simply handing out voter registration cards. These ways included house meetings, one-to-ones, and different voter registration techniques.

State parties, such as the Delaware Democratic Party, also began to reach out to the youth in more effective ways. They increased their number of youth outreach programs, and had voter registration drives that were targeted to the youth, while also working with other organizations by having joint events. The Delaware Young Democrats participated in service projects, which drew in the youth because of the subject matter on which they focused. For example, the Young Democrats conducted a service project with AIDS Delaware, which was a prominent issue and still is among young people.

While the millennial generation tends to have negative connotations for having a lack of motivation or desire to help the community, they have been the most effective at organizing Get Out the Vote efforts, volunteering for long hours, and getting their peers to volunteer with them. Reasons include the use of Web 2.0, the empowerment of candidates that speak to the issues for which the millennial generation care, and local and state powers have found innovative ways to get them involved in their communities and make a difference in elections. The millennial generation has had a positive effect on volunteering efforts in campaigns, and has even had a powerful effect on the actual outcome of elections.

 

Below is a section of research that focuses on what motivates the millennial generation to volunteer for campaigns and each article discusses a particular election where there was a high amount of millennial participation, and also discusses reasons that motivate the millennial generation to keep volunteering.

________________________________________________________________________

Fisher, Dana. 2006. Activism Inc. Stanford University Press.

  In this book, Fisher discusses the power of canvassing, the problem of outsourcing politics, and the power of the grassroots campaigns, such as Greenpeace and the Sierra Club. She focuses on the Left and the importance of starting political work at the local level. She also discusses why people that are passionate about politics might become tiresome due to the outsourcing in progressive politics.

 

Leyden, Peter and Ruy Teixeira. 2007. “The Progressive Politics of the Millennial Generation.” NewPolitics.net.

  This article looks at the Millennial Generation and how it is moving more progressive. It notes that volunteerism is booming with the Millennials and their values and worldviews are quickly becoming progressive. Finally it discusses what will happen in the future with the Millennial Generation, and the wide array of new media available for progressives.        

Little, Ben. 2009. “The millennial generation and politics: the challenge of the ipod generation to politics.” Soundings: 42.

This article discusses how the current millennial generation has been known as the generation of iPods, the lost generation, and as being materialistic, feckless, etc. There are some people in this generation that are detached from politics, but there are also those that are concerned about the future, and become active in single-issue campaigns. This article discusses activism and the way that journalists and academics observe these activists.

Nickerson, David. 2006. “Volunteer Phone calls Can Increase Turnout: Evidence from Eight Field Experiments.” American Politics Research: 34(271) Retrieved from http://apr.sagepub.com/content/34/3/271

 In this article, Nickerson refutes the idea that get-out-the-vote phone calls do not increase voter turnout by discussing the strategies used in 2004. He argues that get-out-the-vote phone calls are effective if the quality of the calls is strong. Overall, nonpartisan, volunteer GOTV phone calls are most effective at mobilizing voters and voters registered by students making the calls were no more motivated to vote than people who never had any previous contact from the campaign. Moreover, students in active political student groups are effective at mobilizing voters.

Roker, Debi, and Katie Player and John Coleman. 1999. “Young people’s voluntary and campaigning activities as sources of political education.” Oxford Review of Education: 25(1&2)

This article exams the image of young people and how they are known as alienated, apathetic, and uninvolved in general. However, it also examines young people’s involvement involuntary and campaigning activities and it looks at a survey regarding volunteering and campaigning. Finally, it finds a correlation between campaigning and volunteering and one’s political knowledge after volunteering or campaigning.

Shea, Daniel M. and John C. Green. 2007. “The Case of Young Citizens.” Green, John Clifford, and Daniel J. Coffey. The State of the Parties: The Changing Role of Contemporary American Politics.

This article discusses different types of politically active groups and different American Party organizations. It mostly discusses what the role of state parties as well as local parties, and their abilities to mobilize young voters to become heavily engaged in the electoral process. Whereas local party leaders are not especially interested in the youth vote, state parties are doing a strong job at engaging the youth to become more involved. Overall, this article does demonstrate the ways that local party committees can have the capacity to mobilize voters, which includes the youth.