Essay by wesleywilliamUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, November 2004

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Like a bizarre game of musical chairs, both Democrats and Republicans are scrambling to capture the votes of America's young adults. Comprising more than 17 percent of the entire U.S. electorate, 18- to 24-year-olds have become a commodity to political strategists regardless of their elephant or donkey persuasion. However, of the limited non-partisan groups striving to motivate young voters, few could adequately compete with MTV'sRock the Vote, created by recording artists in 1990.

Studies conclude that motivating young voters is dependent upon a variety of factors. Tindell and Medhurst (1998) identified four factors most likely to affect the vote/no vote decision for young voters - a sense of duty, perceived personal benefits from the election's outcome, personal concern over the election's outcome and a group's perceived effect on the election's outcome. Their study concluded that Rock the Vote met each of these four criteria and were able to turn out more than 17 million young adults in the 1992 general election.

While Rock the Vote touted its purported victory of a 6.5 percent increase from the 1988 general election in voter turnout among 18- to 24-year-olds, numbers from ensuing elections indicate that since the 1992 general election, the numbers are dwindling. In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that the 2000 general election hit an all-time low for voters in this age group.


According to an article in Contemporary Sexuality (2002), research indicates that viewers of MTV programming were unable to easily identify with candidates during mid-term elections. Stephen Freidman, an MTV executive said, "If we talk about the importance of voting in and of itself, it falls flat." The solution: use sex.

Couched in terms of sex education and issue awareness, MTV aired a 'Fight for Your Rights' special entitled "Sex in the Classroom,"...