Driving Voter Turnout in 2020: Research on Effective Messaging Strategies for Each Generation

What messaging and prompts are most motivating to would-be voters?

The Ad Council and Democracy Works joined forces to understand how people in the U.S. view voting—and identify what messaging will influence potential voters to get out and vote.

Why we conducted this research:

Voting rates in the U.S. are critically low – hovering around 60% for presidential elections and dipping even lower for midterms (between 40 - 50%) and local elections (often below 20%). The good news is that the 2018 midterm elections saw the country’s highest midterm turnout in over 100 years. We wanted to build on that momentum and help drive voter turnout across all ages for the 2020 elections and beyond.

Our research looked at four generations: baby boomers, Gen X, millennials, and Gen Z. Specifically, we sought to:

  • Uncover overall attitudes toward and perceptions of voting
  • Explore messages that have influenced perceptions and attitudes on voting in the past
  • Understand reactions to specific message frames among these four generations
  • Determine which message framing could be most effective in driving turnout

This research is designed to help any organization (whether you’re a nonprofit, corporation, or local government agency) seeking to raise voter turnout by inspiring voters to get to the polls in 2020 and beyond.

Why are rates so low in our country?

It’s a combination of a lot a things --the process is too difficult, doesn’t fit the way we live, people today feel less attached to political parties, and other factors like if you live in competitive state or if your family and friends vote.

We also know that certain groups tend to vote more sporadically than others. However, what distinguishes voters from nonvoters can be only partly explained by demographics. Experts say individuals tend to be motivated by a combination of their priorities, their group culture, how competitive their state is, and how easy or hard it is to vote.

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