University of Missouri - Columbia.
Back to Story Archive
Posted 10.03.05

"Rock the Vote" an Effective Way to Motivate Young Teens, Study Says

COLUMBIA, MO -- During the 2003-04 presidential primary campaign, the national youth organization Rock the Vote partnered with CNN to sponsor the first-ever televised presidential debate devoted exclusively to the concerns of young voters. Their purpose was to increase the number of 18 to 24-year-olds who voted, which before the November election had dropped to one-third of those eligible. Since then, polls have shown that the number increased to at least 42 percent during the last election. Now, a new study by a researcher at the University of Missouri-Columbia found that the Rock the Vote/CNN debate had a direct impact on young citizens identifying with their candidate and increased their level of political interest.

"Before this study, there has been little evidence to help us understand if -- and perhaps, even more importantly how -- the various youth-oriented civic engagement messages worked to persuade young citizens to vote," said Mitchell McKinney, assistant professor of communication at MU, who conducted the study along with Mary Banwart, communication professor at the University of Kansas.

Related Links

A total of 331 students, averaging 19 years in age, participated in the study. McKinney asked 181 of them to view the Rock the Vote/CNN debate and the other 149 view a more traditional primary debate. Each group completed pre-test questionnaires, which measured their interest, trust and cynicism toward the government and politics. Then, they viewed the specific debate and completed a post-test questionnaire.

The Rock the Vote respondents were significantly more likely to disagree with the statement "People like me don't have any say about what the government does" as well as the statement "One never knows what politicians really think." Also, they were more likely to agree with the sentiment that politicians will do the right thing after their exposure to the Rock the Vote debate.

"Our finding here suggest the Rock the Vote/CNN debate was an effective youth engagement effort," McKinney said. "We encourage debate sponsors and broadcasters to continue to develop such forums, and we encourage political candidates to continue to participate in these activities."

The study recently was published in Journalism Studies.



MU News Bureau: