A study of factors contributing to the effectiveness of political communication to young voters in Louisiana

Laura Ann Gresens

Abstract

Young people comprise a potential votership of enormous proportion in the United States. Yet they typically do not exercise their right to vote in mass. This study was an attempt to determine what factors might contribute to both voter participation and voter apathy among American youth. It begins by examining factors which research has identified as having a potential contributory role in the process. Past research indicates that overall knowledge of politics and political systems is linked with political participation in the population as a whole. In addition, an individual's level of issue salience has been shown to be a motivational factor in political involvement. Another factor that has been linked with political participation is efficacy, or the degree to which a person feels his or her participation is effective. There is little prior research which tests whether these same factors motivate young people specifically. Results of this study indicate that young voters in Louisiana are not highly interested in politics, and consequently they were not able to correctly recall simple cues given immediately prior to being tested. They were able to recognize those cues more often than they were able to recall them, but in most cases they were not able to recall or recognize the cues a significant number of times. To test issue salience, subjects were divided into groups according to whether the issue featured in the test stimuli was a high or low involvement issue. When subjects' level of issue involvement was high, they were able to recall and recognize more often than when their issue involvement was low, but results were significant in only one case. Subjects were also divided into groups according to whether or not the language and images they were exposed to in the test stimuli contained embedded cues appealing to individual vs. group empowerment. Subjects did not recall or recognize cues significantly more often regardless of which cues they received during exposure. Implications for further study are discussed.