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Findings from Focus Groups Among year-olds October 2007
2 METHODOLOGY DATELOCATIONGROUP October 2 nd, 2007Denver, COLatino Men, age October 2 nd, 2007Denver, COWhite Blue-Collar Women, age October 3 rd, 2007Des Moines, IADemocratic Caucus-Goers, age October 3 rd, 2007Des Moines, IARepublican Caucus-Goers, age October 4 th, 2007Minneapolis, MNCurrent College Students, age October 4 th, 2007Minneapolis, MNAfrican American Men, age October 8 th, 2007Philadelphia, PAWhite Unmarried Women, age October 8 th, 2007Philadelphia, PAAfrican American Women, age October 9 th, 2007Tampa, FLLatinas, age October 9 th, 2007Tampa, FLWhite Blue-Collar Men, age We conducted groups among about 100 young adults between 18 and 29 years old.
3 KEY FINDINGS 1.The issue environment, at present, hovers around three issues: the war in Iraq, health care, and the economy and pocket book issues. All together, young people focus on these issues at a very personal level (can I get health care, can I afford health care) and on a broader level that pertains their family (health care, the economy, college for friends and family) and the country as a whole (the war). 2.Young people are uncertain and unsure about next years elections. Those who would vote Democratic and are focused on change remember that change was a theme in 2004 and those in power were reelected. Those who would vote Republican are cautious because they do not necessarily embrace the change others in their age group support. This uncertainty is a good measure because young voters understand the importance of next years election.
4 KEY FINDINGS 3.Messaging needs to be direct and unbiased. Young people crave information but want it from an unbiased source they can trust. Information that seems biased will be disregarded and that source of information will be disrespected. Statistics matter – young people like knowing that there are 44 million people under age 30 who are eligible to vote, but our strongest way to empower them is by telling them that they can make a difference on important issues and that their vote will count. 4.Young voters are more frustrated now than they were in They are angry about the war, the cost of health care, and the direction of the economy - and have yet to see any real change on these issues. This anger and frustration has to be dealt with in a careful and constructive way.
Issue Environment Young voters are engaged on specific issues that can be used to increase registration and turnout. The war in Iraq, health care and insurance, and the economy are top of mind concerns.
6 The war in Iraq is the dominant issue today, as it was in Most young people are frustrated with the direction of things in Iraq. Some young people said they supported the war in principle in the beginning and think President Bush did the right thing. Yet, even these voters are disappointed in the progress and feel there is no plan to get us out of the war. I feel it was good at first, but it just, it went too far. – Blue Collar man, Tampa There is very little support for the war among young voters. I just feel like its hard for me to understand why were over there cause I dont think that theres ever been someone to say were over here because of this. – Latina, Tampa
7 The two main strains of criticism of the war revolve around concerns at home and lack of progress abroad. Many believe we could and should be spending the billions of dollars here at home rather than on the war in Iraq. Its so wasting money and in areas that we dont need to waste money on. And theres so many more focuses here that Id rather have us kind of take a look at. – Blue-Collar woman, Denver They also believe the war has no purpose. Obviously there was a reason that the people were sent over there. I dont know what that reason was. I mean obviously it was to protect our country, but I mean why were still over there. – College Student, Minneapolis
8 Most participants want to see the troops brought home. Many wanted an immediate withdrawal, while others said an immediate withdrawal is not possible. I dont think theres any ideal way to do it, I mean a phase-out that needs to start right now, is what I want…I mean I dont know how that would work, but it needs to start happening now and happen pretty quickly I think. – Unmarried woman, Philadelphia Some participants felt it was wrong to think we could force our values and democracy on others. I just think that instead of having all those troops over there they should concentrate on having more security within, you know the United States. …Let them solve what they need to do, build their own country up again. …We cannot force our culture or way of living or Democracy over there in that country cause they have certain beliefs, especially religious beliefs … – Latina, Tampa
9 There were some notable gender differences in the discussion of the war. Young men shared concern with the war, but were focused less on what some have called the human toll and more on their frustrations that we should focus on problems in this country rather than problems in Iraq. I mean I agree you got to protect yourself, but at the same time theres a line that once, I mean, theres only so much you can throw into a war that could be being spent on other things and its affecting every single person every day… – Latino man, Denver Young women were especially concerned with the war and discussed their personal connections, telling stories of friends, boyfriends, brothers, and sisters that went to war and came back changed. My brother came home on leave, and I think if he spoke four words, it was a big deal at one time. I mean you have to physically ask him something to make him talk...because hes seen little kids are looking like his own kids get blown away. – Blue collar woman, Denver
10 Frustration with the rising costs of health care and health insurance runs deep among young adults. Most respondents supported national health insurance in concept. They used different terms – nationalized, socialized or like they do in Canada – but their point was clear. Well government should pay for every single one of us just like Canada… You know there is no reason in the world why they cant, you know. – Blue collar woman, Denver I just think its socialized. Its what Canadas has that the socialized. Its the same thing. – Latina woman, Tampa Only about three out of ten respondents who were not students have health insurance and paying out of pocket is breaking them. Its definitely a deciding factor what I choose to do financially. – College student, Minneapolis
11 Health care seemed to have as much intensity and reach as the war when it comes to issues that young people are concerned about. The intensity of the issue is driven strongly by their personal experiences with it. Young women were especially vocal on this topic. The mothers in the groups, who are generally making the health care decisions in their families, were especially concerned about premiums, co-pays, and co-insurance. I have a son and Im paying his health insurance right now and it is a chunk out of my, a huge chunk out of my paycheck. So I applied for Medicaid for children… I was told I have to cancel his current insurance to get theirs and it takes 90 days to get it. I cant have a four month old 90 days without insurance … So theres a lot of like red tape thats not allowing people that could use the program that want to use the programs that they just cant. – Latina woman, Tampa
12 Other key issues… Young voters have mixed attitudes on the ECONOMY. First, they think there are many opportunities for young people who are willing to work hard. However, as we saw in 2004, while they may be optimistic personally, they are also pessimistic for other people their age. Their frustration with the economy is rooted in concerns over rising costs. It used to be where your cost of living was close to what you would make at your job and now its just the cost of living is almost, you know outrageous compared to what you make as an income. – Latina woman, Tampa Among older young adults (24 to 29 year olds), COLLEGE AFFORDABILITY remains an important issue. Many in this age group are paying back loans or had dropped out of college or delayed graduation because of affordability concerns, and they remain focused on the issue. I said I think youre like too easy to get money…Its too easy cause I found myself like way in debt…its just like here, heres another five thousand, and Im like oh, thank you. And at that time, you know you owe 50 thousand dollars and you dont have any money. – Unmarried woman, Philadelphia Many young voters are frustrated with ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION. However, to the great majority of young voters, the issue is not a top of mind issue. Some young people wanted to stand up for immigrants. Others, however, felt immigrants drove wages down and put strain services that voters paid for with their taxes. Yeah its going to be a big issue. When you got people, you know cause theres, I mean it would be different if they, if there, I mean theres a majority that come and they try to do good and they try to do this and that, but then you got people that wont even speak English or wont even attempt to learn the language. – Blue collar man, Tampa
Attitudes toward Voting Participants acknowledged that it was their responsibility to show up as much as candidates have a responsibility to address their issues.
14 The perceived lack of participation among their peers frustrates some younger voters. However, young voters felt there were barriers to participation, particularly lack of knowledge. These participants expressed frustration that voting is done during the week and mostly during work hours. Early registration deadlines were also problematic. All of these excuses were reasonable to the groups we talked to. The procedures are just so outrageous. Like the fact that, they only give us one day to vote… Its always on a weekday where the majority of people has to work And so, youre asking yourself who does have the time to vote. – Latina woman, Tampa They consider voting important enough that they would rather not have uninformed people making mistakes at the polls and they even doubted themselves sometimes to make the right decision. I want to feel that my vote is going to count and the only way it is going to count if I take responsibility to educate myself more then Ill be able to make better decisions, so thats hopeful. – Latina woman, Tampa
15 Young people have positive things to say about voting. However, there was a more intense discussion around the negative aspects. However, they were skeptical that their vote would even be counted, and even if their vote were counted, there was a real sense that special interests control everything, so voting in general might be useless anyway. Its like back in school, like when people are running for you know class president … theyre not really running to make changes, its just like a whole popularity thing. They can sell us a good dream of what theyre going to do, but in reality theyre going to do what they want and its totally opposite of whats appealing…Theyre going to lie to us, but then theyre going to go back and do what they want to do anyways when they get elected. – Blue collar male They believe voting is their chance to be heard, make a difference, advocate change, and support people they believe in. Your voice is voting so if you want a new change youre going to vote. – College student, Minneapolis
Attitudes toward Decision- Makers & Candidates Young people are frustrated with President Bush but are largely looking past him toward the 2008 election and the frontrunner candidates.
17 Young people are frustrated with President Bush, but for the most part they are more focused on the future. Participants were largely dismissive of Bush. It is time to move on. Their feelings toward the President impact the way they they view other issues and the way they will vote next year, but they are forward looking. I just, I dont know, I just dont care about him anymore about his opinions or how he goes about things. – Latino man, Denver Young people have a clear view of President Bush and most dislike him. Most felt he had no plan to get us out of Iraq and saw him as lacking in credibility and restraint. Hes in-articulate. He doesnt know what hes doing. He, hes made tons of decisions that have just brought us down. – Latina woman, Tampa Just really not sure what direction hes bringing this country or what his motives are…Hes not with us like he should be. – College student, Minneapolis I have a hard time believing in him. – African American woman, Philadelphia
18 Young people are as equally frustrated with Congress as they are with the President. They are disappointed that nothing seems to be getting done. Most know that last years elections resulted in a Democratic take over of Congress, but still nothing gets done. Even the most partisan of Democrats in the groups felt little was being done on important issues. I said theyre better than before, the new elected officials, but I think they still need more cahones. If they were to really want to end the war they would stop the funding for the war and they have the power to do that. – Latino under 30 They used terms like stuck, standoff, and stalemate. The bottom line is that very few young people see any real progress being made on the issues important to them. I dont know about what theyre doing. Thats what I put cause, I really dont. – Latina woman, Tampa Theyre supposed to be our representatives, but I cant, I bet you cant find a single person in Congress that represents me, you know… That, that has ever had to worry about, you know paying bills, getting gas into their vehicle, feeding their child... – Blue collar woman, Denver I agree with a lot of them and I think they all have good intentions, but just collectively getting that body of government to do stuff is pretty difficult. – Latino man, Denver
19 Hillary Clinton was clearly the most known candidate and the one with the strongest profile – both good and bad. They believe she is tough enough (perhaps too tough) and that she has enough experience to do the job. I like her, shes a strong, shes a strong woman and thats what I really like about her. – African American woman, Philadelphia Clinton inspires many of our participants. They are excited that a woman finally has a genuine chance to win. It would be neat to finally have a woman President. – Unmarried woman, Philadelphia
20 Negative feelings about Clinton were just as potent. Republican participants were very critical of Clinton, and she was the most polarizing figure we discussed. They also worry that international leaders will not take a woman seriously. Even young women wondered if she would be too emotional when weighing important decisions, but others saw that as a virtue. I just wonder if she actually will have enough power in that position, as a woman to get anything done…I mean all world leaders what are you going to think about, you know a woman… – Latino man, Denver Just looking at past history, male, when you have a male leader, automatically it would just commands respect, whereas women, there are women leaders, but the history behind it theyve had to struggle a lot more to get where theyre at. – Latina woman, Tampa
21 Young voters also have a good sense of Obama, and most believe he is the better candidate for young people. Still, they had their doubts. They wonder if America is ready to elect an African American man. Participants also have doubts whether Obama has the experience needed to deal with the challenges we face. I have doubts. I mean hes young and exciting and very eloquent, but even Bill Clinton said, you know he doesnt know what hes doing. Hes a young rising star but he doesnt have the experience required to be president. – College Student, Minneapolis He represents change. Well I just think also the younger generation, I mean maybe people our age have seen too many old people and they want someone you know someone whos younger and as far as I can remember theyve all been pretty you know elderly. – College student, Minneapolis I mean I think he would probably try to...accommodate...right, the younger people – African American woman, Philadelphia
22 Rudy Giuliani was the most known and best liked of the Republican candidates. Now that Giuliani has left the race, it is unclear which candidate left on the Republican side will have the strongest pull for young voters. Young people saw him as more liberal and less of a typical Republican which may help him in a General Election but not the primary. This, paired with his tough image and natural and cultivated association with 9/11, made him more likely than other Republicans in the field to pull voters from the Democratic candidate among this majority Democratic age group. He was really involved with 9/11. He was right there, but now thats probably the only thing he has to his name. – College student, Minneapolis Hes not playing to the evangelical base, I dont believe which is a big part of that party. – Latino man, Denver
Sources of Information The Internet is by far the most popular source of information, both political and otherwise.
24 Young people prefer the internet over other sources of political information. Most do not regularly talk politics with their friends. Those who said they did tended to be women more than men. However, many said they talked about certain issues like the cost of health care or education, though not in the political context. On the internet, if you hear a liberal report on one issue you can find a conservative report to balance it out. Other forms of media – radio, television, cable – were seen as inevitably one-sided. Like you said with TV, when you watch TV they show you what they want you to see, but online youll get to see it all. Like youll get to read up and research and check out the whole perspective of everything. – Blue collar man, Tampa
25 Many were on My Space or other social networking sites like Facebook, but they are not seen as credible sources of information at this time. Even those who had added candidates as friends see campaigning on social networking sites as silly and frivolous and do not view it as a valuable sources for electoral information. I think (MySpace is) kind of sneaky. Its kind of putting like a happy face on kind of like a slimy guy. Like they say all these good things like Oh I love football and video games and all that stuff just to try to relate to (young people). – College student, Minneapolis Young people know that its not really the candidate and sometimes not even the campaign that is behind a networking page. So while many young people can be reached through these sites, the information they receive is taken with a grain of salt. I went to Obamas (My Space) and it was really generic. And I dont think he had logged on in a while. And you dont know if theyre official either, if its really them. – Unmarried woman, Philadelphia I wouldnt want to base any opinion off of it, its just like music artist. They dont run their own my space pages some people write them for them. I wouldnt base nothing off of it. – Blue collar man, Tampa
Messaging to Young Voters Rules for Engaging Young People in the Political Process
27 DO NOT: Place young people in opposition to older people. DO: Use unifying language that gives young voters the opportunity to use their vote for a bigger purpose. While they want to make life better for themselves, they also want to make it better for the people they love and care about. I liked everything it said because I do have a sister who wants to be able to go to college. I do have friends in Iraq. I do have a child. And my parents, you know Social Security. And Im a parent. – Unmarried woman, Philadelphia I like that its focus more on the greater good and not just like what you wanted. – Blue collar man, Tampa Young people believe we are all in this together, and they dont necessarily think that even seniors are getting all theyre issues addressed. And also youre not downgrading you know the elders. You want them, theyre important too. Its not a competition between the young and the old. – Latina woman, Tampa
28 DO NOT: Think that numbers alone will empower young people to take action. DO: Know that the way to empower young people is to make sure they know their vote can make a difference and will actually be counted. The message needs to do more than just speak to statistics, it needs to invoke issues important to young people and be situated on the war, health care, or the economy. I think its good to know like, that you have the numbers, but then maybe there could be some sort of statement thats you know even just saying like there are some really important issues that you could have a voice in. or just something that like sort of brings it into the context more, its really abstract. – White woman The statistics give validity to strength in numbers, but first they have to feel empowered that voting matters. Because of the numbers and because, I mean, its the truth. A lot of, like a lot of my friends they dont even care to vote because they dont think that their vote counts. – Latina woman, Tampa Well in a sense its kind of like vague, maybe a detail or a statistic other than just nearly fifty million. I dont know, it wasnt bad; it just wasnt great. – College student, Minneapolis
29 DO NOT: Invoke anger. DO: Invoke the issues that frustrate young people, but be results oriented. The language should be forward looking, because young people are still optimistic and want solutions rather than placing blame. The language needs to strike the right balance between getting mad and making a difference. I think its, compared to the other one its everything negative about whats wrong….You know I mean its kind of like well thats not going to convince me to go just because of all the negative. Im more affected by positive things you know…Id rather just hear about you know the positive things that could be done if I do go vote. – Current college student The heated angry language below may be too much red meat for young people who have doubts that voting can make a difference. I just thought the whole thing was so negative that I mean, people are apathetic and I think sometimes thats just being overwhelmed with all this negativity. – College student, Minneapolis
30 DO NOT: Think that young voters will vote just because it is the right thing to do. DO: Know that we need to appeal to their interests, issues, and desire for practical solutions. They need to be motivated to vote based on issues and outcomes. Messages need to be direct – change the war, improve schools, fix the economy, voting makes a difference for you and those important to you. …The last sentence though, I kind of have an issue with that because I think its played out and like you always hear that and its like well talk about something thats relevant now. – Unmarried woman, Philadelphia Young people are unlikely to register to vote and turnout based solely on language that voting is a right, a duty, or the right thing to do. I feel like Im getting yelled at…Its like I feel like thats, …maybe my great-grandparents would have given me a speech like that, like but I feel like Im being yelled at. I dont like it. – Unmarried woman, Philadelphia
31 DO NOT: Believe that young voters have confidence that their vote will count. DO: Know that messaging needs to reinforce empowerment. The message that worked was effective because it did not say for sure that these changes will happen, but that they could happen if people vote. Young people have real doubts that voting will effect much change, that their vote will make a difference, or even that their vote will be counted. See thats what everybody thinks that, you know my votes not going to count. You know thats I mean theres a lot of you know younger people that are more voting now, but theres still not enough. – Unmarried woman,
Appendix Text of Message Tests
33 DO NOT: Place young people in opposition to older people. DO: Use unifying language that gives young voters the opportunity to use their vote for a bigger purpose. Strongest Language: Your vote can make a difference for people you care about. Vote for your brothers and sisters who want to be able to go to college. Vote for your friends who are in Iraq and want to come home. Vote for your children who will need clean air to breathe and good schools to go to. Vote for parents so they have social security benefits and Medicare when they retire. Dont just vote for yourselfvote for them. Strong Language: In 2008, your voice will matter. As part of a new generation of voters, 50 million strong, you have the power to change politics in this country. Its up to you to decide who the next president of United States is. Its up to you to decide if and when the war will end. Its up to you decide if everyone in this country should get healthcare coverage. Its all up to you, so let your voice be heard on Election Day Weaker Language: Decisions are made by those who show up. Older voters, especially seniors, vote consistently, and as a result, their needs are being met – Social Security, Medicare – while ours are ignored, like college affordability and health care. Politicians talk to the people who they think are going to vote, and they prioritize the issues important to those people. If we want our issues to be priorities, then we need to vote. If not, older people will continue to rule and younger people will continue to be last in line. We can decide which candidates get to be our leaders and how this country is run now and in the future.
34 DO NOT: Think that numbers alone will empower young people to take action. DO: Know that the way to empower young people is to make sure they know their vote can make a difference and will actually be counted. Less Successful Language: Our generation has the numbers to decide what happens in the next election. In 2000, the presidential was decided by just half a million votes. The average competitive congressional election is won by less than 1,000 votes. In 2008, there will be 50 million young people eligible to vote. We have strength in numbers if we just show up. We can change the agenda and elect the next President. Voting is one of our generations best chances to make a change.
35 DO NOT: Invoke anger. DO: Invoke the issues that frustrate young people, but be results oriented. Less Successful Language: Our country is way off course. There is no end in sight for the war in Iraq, which has killed thousands of Americans, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and damaged America's national security. The economy is in a free fall, and were losing jobs. Millions of Americans, especially young people, are without health insurance. We struggle to pay for education while the government is doing less and less to help. We cant let this go on. People our age need to take a stand, or the things we care about, the things that affect us personally, will never be a priority for the politicians in Washington. We need to vote in 2008, and we need to vote for change and accountability.
36 DO NOT: Think that young voters will vote just because it is the right thing to do. DO: Know that we need to appeal to their interests. Less Successful Language: Voting is the most important right that citizens in a free country have. We should make every effort to participate in this most fundamental expression of our democratic freedoms. Too many have sacrificed too much for us to decide that not voting is acceptable.
37 DO NOT: Believe that young voters have confidence that their vote will count. DO: Know that messaging needs to reinforce empowerment. Language that Works, but Needs Tweaking: Were facing an historic election in What happens in the voting booth next November will impact the course of the country for years to come. Do we stay in Iraq and secure that country as some people want, or do we leave Iraq and turn our attention elsewhere? Does government get more involved making health care affordable, as some people want, or do we let the market decide? Our generation has a vested interest in what happens. We need to give our generation a voicea voice for change.
Findings from Focus Groups Among year-olds October 2007