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September 27, 2006

pitching the vote

Wonkette (not that I read her, or anything) thinks that this expensively produced ad will actually turn off young voters, because it's corny and unrealistic. It shows voting to be a "pointless charade enjoyed by gullible old people."

I'm not certain what to think. On one hand, the spot advocates voting: for no particular purpose. I assume that people vote for or against something (often something controversial); but there is no hint in the ad of what those issues might be. The arguments it gives for voting are all personal and all positive, which makes it quite different from real political discourse. Also, I must say that I'm always suspicious of generic appeals to vote. Since voting per se is uncontroversial, a pro-voting ad is a safe way to promote a brand name without alienating anyone.

On the other hand, evidence from field experiments shows that young people are more likely to vote when someone tells them to--including when they are given nonpartisan messages that emphasize civic duty (pdf). This broadcast spot might work as well as a phone call; and we know that calls boost turnout. The URL advertised at the end leads to information about registering and voting, although there's nothing on the site about issues or candidates.

Posted by peterlevine at September 27, 2006 11:40 AM

Comments

Our campus radio station just started airing these ads. I was the gatekeeper, so to speak, who chose to air them. And I agreed with you, at first, Peter. I thought, these are so corny and stupid.

But, trying to be objective, I considered their purpose. And I've decided to air them because they advocate voters actually learning about their candidates or issues, or else their vote will be just as superficial as voting for a packet of relish.

I feel that this is an important and timely message - despite the sarcasm and delivery - because it seems like non-college age voters do vote straight party tickets or based on one issue or a flamboyant, last-minute attack ad. And the students I talk with on our campus are tired of that and don't want to choose that path. They want to know about candidates and issues and to vote based on a larger view of the situation.

So I think your assessment, with all due respect, is incorrect. The ads do not advocate "voting: for no particular purpose." Rather they sarcastically point out that one must learn about the candidates in order to make a fully informed decision.

Posted by: activistprez [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 29, 2006 10:42 AM

I can't decide what to make of the ad, myself, but your response was certainly reasonable.

Posted by: Peter Levine [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 29, 2006 11:08 AM

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