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Why Should We Study Youth Voter Outreach Messages?

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I have not been able to find a study on youth voter outreach in Canada that explores the best messages to use in such efforts. Here is something I drafted recently that provides a rationale for studying messages:

My literature review indicates there is no academic research on the messages used in Canadian voter outreach campaigns. Political communications scholars provide a strong rationale for such a study.  Chong and Druckman (2007), for example, explore the impact of framing effects, write that “these occur when (often small) changes in the presentation of an issue or an event produce (sometimes large) changes in opinion”(p. 104), and highlight several studies that demonstrate the impact of such effects (Rasinski, 1989; Sniderman & Theriault, 2004; Zaller, 1992). Aroopala (2011) argues that “frames in political communication  (ie. persuasive messages containing interpretation of events) have been shown to change individuals’ opinions or behavior” (p. 2).  A study by Iyengar and Simon (2000) highlights that, at very least, media campaigns can provide new political information for a citizen to consider.

            The impact of message frames is moderated by other important factors. Zaller (1991) argues that “every opinion is a marriage of information and values” (p. 1215). Zaller defines the term values quite broadly. Other scholars populate a detailed list of message moderating factors. Chong and Druckman (2000) discuss intensity of beliefs, level of pre-existing knowledge, the presence of competing messages, and the credibility of the message source. Aroopala (2011) adds group identity strength and perceptions about how close or far a group is from achieving a goal (Aroopala refers to these as thresholds). These general considerations lead Iyengar and Simon (2000) to suggest that candidates for elected office “should emphasize issues on which they enjoy comparatively favorable stereotypes” (p. 160). Applying similar advice to those conducting youth voter outreach, the predispositions of the audience should be explored so that youth voter outreach messages have the best chance to be favourably received. This is what this study seeks to do.