Volunteers and workers contacted over one hundred million Americans during the 2008 ground war between Obama and McCain (Nielsen 10). Nielsen describes the ground war as an “old-fashioned practice of contacting voters directly on behalf of a candidate or party…deeply intertwined with the most recent advances in online-integrated software and database management” (Nielsen 11). Most common forms being door-to-door campaigning and phone banking. Past elections have shown a correlation between a strong ground war and winning, however will this strategy stay relevant among young voters and future generations?
The Current Population Survey by the US Census has shown a continual increase in youth voter turnout. During the 2000 elections, there was a 40% voter turnout among citizens aged 18-29. That number grew to 49% in the 2004 elections, and 51% in the 2008 elections. This growing demographic was accounted for 20% of Obama’s votes during the 2008 elections, proving they were group not to be ignored (“The Youth Vote in 2012”). However, with young voters being so heavily dependent on social media, will the “old-fashioned” ground game withstand the growing force of technology among the growing group of voters?
The problem I view with this traditional method of outreach is how skeptical this generation has become, and for good reason. Information is taken with a grain of salt, no longer can politicians make statements without thousands of Internet users proving or disproving the validity of his or her statements. So if young voters are not fully trusting well-known politicians, what makes the stranger at their door’s points any more valid?
In the 2012 elections, only about 9% of young voters were contacted by the Obama campaign and 4.9% by the Romney campaign (Viser). Is the money and time spent worth it when the ground war is only reaching a fraction of young voters? Even though past elections have shown the ground war to be effective, I believe this method will begin to be less effective with future generations. Those resources may even be better spent on social media, an outlet that shows no signs of slowing down. Social media users are more likely to be influenced by their peers. For example, if a user’s best friend was to share an online article about why they support a specific candidate, the user is more inclined to consider the politician’s platform versus if a stranger handed the same article to them. Friends and family’s opinion has and will continue to weigh more than a stranger’s.
Nielsen, Rasmus K. “Ground Wars: American Campaigns between Door-to-door and Databases.” (2010): 1-40. Sept. 2010. Web.
“The Youth Vote in 2012.” The Youth Vote in 2012 (2013): n. pag. The Center For Information & Research On Civic Learning & Engagement, 10 May 2013. Web. <http://www.civicyouth.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/CIRCLE_2013FS_outhVoting2012FINAL.pdf>.
Viser, Matt. “Obama Campaign Targets Younger Voters.” BostonGlobe.com. N.p., 2 Nov. 2012. Web. <http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2012/11/01/president-obama-trying-match-results-corralling-youth-vote-ohio/2AT46U4ggEZuNEkDh9kZPP/story.html>