Elections

'Rock the Vote' misses what motivates young voters

With the midterms looming in less than four weeks, traditional get-out-the-vote efforts -- like knocking on doors and making phone calls -- are mainstays of election season. But one music video is targeting young voters with a decidedly twenty-first century approach.

The non-profit group Rock the Vote released a video this week featuring rapper Lil Jon and other celebrities urging young Americans to turn out and vote. But some say the video doesn’t focus enough on the economic issues that young people find important.

“Turn Out For What”, modeled after Lil Jon’s popular song “Turn Down for What,” seeks to mobilize the typically low-turnout youth vote into participating on or before November 4.

“Rock the Vote has fused pop culture with politics to drive the youth vote, protect voting rights and advocate for an electoral process and voting system that works for young people,” said Rock The Vote’s president Ashley Spillane in a statement.

Spillane said the video seeks to remind “young voters that if they have a cause they feel strongly about, they have to turn out to the polls on Election Day.”“Turn Out For What” features several celebrities, from popular shows like "Glee" and "Orange is the New Black," saying what issues will drive them to the polls this election season.

They say they are motivated to vote by issues like marriage equality, reproductive rights, climate change, and other social justice and environmental issues. Lil Jon says he is turning out for marijuana legalization.

“The talent we worked with chose their own issues,” said Audrey Gelman, a spokeswoman for Rock the Vote.

According to Gallup Poll data released Thursday, a majority of surveyed registered voters ages 18 to 34 say climate change (51 percent) and access to abortion and contraception (57 percent) is extremely or very important to them in this year’s midterm congressional elections. The same cannot be said for their older counterparts.

But the issues that were important to the largest portions of young Americans were economic issues. A vast majority of young Americans said the economy (88 percent), the availability of good jobs (83 percent) and taxes (74 percent) were important to them in the voting booth.

Governance and foreign policy issues were also important to those surveyed young voters. Seventy-six percent said the functioning of the federal government was important to their vote. Seventy percent of young voters said the same about policies related to the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria. None of the celebrities in the video cited economic or foreign policy issues as their reasons for voting.

Young people truly care about jobs and the economy, said Gus Portela, the national political director for the College Republican National Committee, in an email. “It's no surprise that Rock the Vote produced a video using a bunch of known liberal celebrities asking young people to vote,” Portela wrote.

Gelman said the issues in the video were focused heavily on domestic issues. "But we think they represent a broad cross-section of the issues young people care about," she said.

Gelman said the video has been widely shared on social media since its initial release on Tuesday.

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