Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Youth Vote Unaffected By Social Media, Poll Results Suggest

Paresh Dave |
October 30, 2012 | 10:44 a.m. PDT

Executive Director

Young adults in Los Angeles watch the second presidential debate Oct. 16 from the back of a hall. (Rosa Trieu/Neon Tommy)
Young adults in Los Angeles watch the second presidential debate Oct. 16 from the back of a hall. (Rosa Trieu/Neon Tommy)
As voting among 18-to-29-year-olds Nov. 6 should stay on par with past elections, social media and the Internet appears to be doing very little to engage a larger number of young adults.

A couple of weeks before Election Day, 85 percent of young adults polled said they "had not been contacted or were unsure if they were contacted" during the last six months by at least one of the presidential campaigns or a political group to donate money or volunteer.

The findings from the The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement, a nonpartisan research organization at Tufts University, suggests candidates haven't found ways to use the Internet to generate a higher level of political participation than in the past.

Of the 15 percent people who did report contacts, twice as many had been personally contacted by Obama backers than Romney backers.

Youth turnout -- the percentage of young adults eligible to vote who actually vote -- has been increasing for the past three presidential elections since tanking in 1996.

The youth turnout in 2008 was about 51 percent, and 53 percent of young adults of the 1,700 young adults surveyed in mid-October said they were "extremely likely" to vote.

Survey results also showed 18 percent of young adults reported not having any social media accounts. Combined with the 37 percent of young adults who had friends who shared "just a little" or "none at all" about the elections on social media, more than half of young adults have barely any political interactions on social media.

Instead, young adults said a parent asking them to vote would most influence them to vote. Friends were next most influential.

As far as the 2012 health care law known as Obamacare, young adults are split nearly 33-33-33 as far as support, opposition and no idea. Yet, 18-t0-29-year-olds still overwhelmingly support President Barack Obama.

Peter Levine, who heads the center at Tufts, and Paul Taylor, an expert at Pew Research, spoke to a public radio station about youth voting on Monday.

Levine said any youth supporters lost by Obama will be replaced by Romney supporters, which should hold youth turnout steady. In 2008, John McCain registered the worst young Republican turnout.

Polling from Pew and Harvard show youth are less interested in the election than in 2008. But Taylor said it's impossible to predict what the turnout will end up looking like.

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