to boost youth voting, teach civics and promote electoral competition

I have a short piece in the New York Times’ “Room for Debate” section this morning. It begins:

Once young adults start voting, the habit tends to persist for their whole lives. One way to boost young people’s voting — and their understanding of the political system and current issues — is to teach them civics while they are still in high school. Young adults are more likely to vote if they have experienced interactive civic education, if a teacher specifically taught them about voting, and if they discussed current events while they were teenagers.

After elaborating a bit on the importance of civics, I turn to political competition:

A wealth of experimental evidence also shows that young people respond well to personalized outreach: We have to ask them to vote. The organizations that have the greatest capacity to contact youth are parties and campaigns, and nothing would increase turnout as much as a robust competition for the youth vote.

Another contributor to the forum, Lisa Garcia Bedolla, also argues for personalized outreach, but Alan Gerber provides evidence that it is not hugely effective. I’d argue that outreach is particularly valuable for youth, who gain more than older adults do from information and encouragement, and who begin lasting habits of turnout. Finally, Jan E. Leighley and Jonathan Nagler make the case for being able to register on the same day you vote, which our research also finds beneficial for youth.

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About Peter

Associate Dean for Research and the Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Tufts University's Tisch College of Civic Life. Concerned about civic education, civic engagement, and democratic reform in the United States and elsewhere.