Is Rock the Vote rocking young voters?

Whether or not you chose to be politically immersed, technology and social media make it nearly impossible to not be at least slightly literate on current issues. As we scroll through our social feeds we are exposed to a medley of political activity – a campaign ad appears because someone liked a candidate’s page, trending headlines surfaced of what’s happening nearby and nationally, and everyone’s favorite… political rants and comments posted by “friends”.

Yet despite the entertainment value it might add, what the people who post these rants are doing is somewhat applaudable. They have identified with something they care about and are expressing it. However, when it comes to politics, identifying with a view is only part of the equation, acting on it is the other – a problem that particularly plagues young adults, despite our potential influential power. And with midterm elections only three weeks away, Rock the Vote is trying to remind us of the power that lies within our voice and our vote with its “Care like Crazy” campaign and “Turn Out for What” anthem.

Releasing five new ads last week, it seems the organization’s newest strategy of pushing you to the polls is by pushing your buttons. For example, one spot features a business man telling the camera he won’t “let a bunch of kids whining about student loans ruin [his] business.” Another ad features a man saying “of course I’m going to hire women. Who doesn’t? They’re nice to look at.” A similar spot coincides as another man says, “I love women – but they’ll never be as smart as men.” Other than sexism, the ads also identify other topics that often hit viewers close to home, such as, war, the environment, and voting rights. But, the most important aspect of the campaign spots? The impression they leave and the question they ask. The viewer is left knowing the person in the video is more than a portrayal, people who have those views do exist and do vote… so are you?

“These are not your typical political ads,” says Ashley Spillane, President of Rock the Vote. “Young people have tuned traditional political ads out. We’re trying to meet young people where they are and speak about the issues that they care about.”

When it comes to targeting young adults, ages 18-35, Spillane is hitting on two important things regarding harnessing the attention of young people: content – “not your typical political ads” and channel – “trying to meet young people where they are”.

The ads will be broadcast in college towns of the states with the most competitive races – North Carolina, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin – as well as online via sites such as YouTube and Hulu. A selective but smart move in outlet choice.  Research shows that young people have and are increasingly “cutting the cord”. Computers, tablets, and smart phones offer us outlets in which we have the accessibility to play media whenever and wherever.  Attempts at trying to reach millennials via traditional television commercial can be a wasted resource. A study found that nearly a quarter of adults between 18-34 don’t pay for cable, instead they subscribe to Netflix or Hulu. Furthermore, when it comes to watching online videos, YouTube reaches more 18-34 year olds than any cable network.

Secondly, as Spillane mentions, young people have also tuned out traditional when it comes to content. Typical campaign material such a mail bulletins, CSPAN debates, and talk radio are simply not reaching young voters, and if they are, are not even close to scratching their attention. Even without the motivation of an election, politics can be a hard subject to arouse interest in when public opinion polls show just how disheartened people are about the gridlock in our system.

However, Rock the Vote is taking a different route to get viewers informed. First, it is intertwining its all star cast of celebrities – Lil Jon, Lena Dunham, Sophia Bush, EJ Johnson, and more – with entertaining viral videos that are reaching us on our favorite communication channels. Secondly, the content of these ads are wholeheartedly about issues – and this as John Tierney writes, “is precisely the right way to go about energizing America’s young voters.”

“For Rock the Vote, the challenge is reaching a generation that’s paying attention to politics,” Arnie Seipel of NPR writes, “but is simultaneously repelled by what they see. By removing the politics and focusing on issue-specific voting, perhaps they’ve found a way to address it.”

Motivating millennials to act upon these issues and get to voting stations could easily change our political landscape. Millennials,  estimated at 86 million, make up the nation’s largest voting block – even larger than the Baby Boomer generation. Rather than their number, what’s important about millennials is their diversity, and with that, their potential to greatly swing votes. Half cite themselves as independent – being less concerned with their party affiliation than their parents, and generally being more detached from traditional institutions.

However, despite the impact young adults could make, a new poll done by Harvard’s Institute of Politics estimate that only 23% of young adults plan to vote in the midterm elections. When compared to presidential elections, midterm elections always garner less attention. What is concerning is the lack of awareness of how midterm ballot issues affect citizens everyday life.

According to their website, Rock the Vote says, it believes we need a massive cultural shift in the way people think about voting. Fortunately, the organization which says it strives to inspire political activity through fusing pop culture, politics, and technology, may have found just the way to that.

As a young adult how do you feel about voting? Do you consider yourself an issue voter? Have you seen the online ads on any of your social media channels? Did the issues they covered inspire you to want to vote? What do you care about? What are you turning out for? #TurnOutForWhat



Photo Oct 15, 10 55 22 AM






As a reminder, Election Day is November 4th. Caroline and I will both be voting, and we hope you take some interest in doing so as well. In case you don’t know how, have never voted for, or are not aware of who the candidates are, below are some resources to help you get informed:

NC State Board of Elections

As the official elections website, this is the best source for any information regarding voting legality and procedure. For information on how and where to register follow this page. Additionally, the site conveniently has all necessary forms available as pdf downloads, so that you can print and fill them out right at home. If you are new to voting, or have changed your address, and do not know where your polling location is, here is where to go to find your appropriate place.  And while election day is November the 4th, there is always the availability to vote early if you wish to avoid lines or are already confident in your candidate selections. Here is where to go to find out the locations of early voting stations.

NC Voter Guide

Much like the site above, NC Voter Guide also provides information on how and where to register and vote. However, this site is great for its feature that allows it to generate a sample ballot based on your location. From there the feature allows you to compare candidate platforms side by side of all the persons running in each race. This is a great tool to get informed not only about candidates running for state wide positions, but for candidates that are directly associated with your county and area.

For more information on particular political parties, the links for every political party in North Carolina are listed below:

North Carolina Democratic Party

North Carolina Republican Party

Independent American Party of North Carolina

Libertarian Party of North Carolina

North Carolina Green Party

North Carolina Labor Party

Reform Party of North Carolina

Constitution Party of North Carolina

If you do not live in North Carolina, but wish to find voting resources for your particular state, Rock the Vote provides information on voting times and places for each state.

– Savannah Valade and Caroline Robinson


5 thoughts on “Is Rock the Vote rocking young voters?

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