Ad Council and MTV Partner to Release Young Voter Study in Time for Midterms

By Kyle O'Brien 

The Ad Council Research Institute (ACRI) and MTV Entertainment Studios have released initial findings from a collaborative research project that looks to get to the truth about voting attitudes and perceptions among younger millennials and voting-age Gen Z people in the U.S.

As the midterm elections approach, the study sheds light on what young people know about voting, what motivates them to go to the polls and what turnout might be expected in November from these younger voters that now make up nearly a third of the electorate.

The findings are the first phase of the Messaging Young Voters in the 2022 Midterms Report—and include an environmental scan, social listening and qualitative analysis designed to understand young voters’ motivations and potential barriers to the voting process.

The initial phase found that there is a high percentage of voters—more than 90% of voters in each party—who are pessimistic about the power of the vote to bring about change and are frustrated and angry with what’s happening in Congress. Regardless of party or candidate affiliation, significant numbers of voting-age young people believe U.S. democracy is in trouble. A spring 2022 issue pulse survey from ACRI revealed that 70% of Americans feel the country is headed in the wrong direction and 58% percent of all voters—including 56% of voters ages 18-29—think America’s system of government needs major reforms or a complete overhaul.

In addition, many new state voting laws that repeal pandemic-era changes and implement restrictive provisions, like stricter voter ID and residency requirements, will make it harder for young people to register to vote in college towns.

These initial results will inform a deeper quantitative exploration of insights in the next phase of the study to be released in the fall. Both phases are being made public and shared with brands and nonprofits to incorporate these learnings into their get out the vote efforts—to excite and encourage as many American youth as possible to vote.

“While both the 2018 midterm and 2020 presidential elections broke records for youth voter turnout, there was a discrepancy between those who were registered and actual turnout—we need to solve for how to close that gap,” said Brianna Cayo Cotter, svp of social impact for Paramount Media Networks and MTV Entertainment Studios, in a statement. “We are excited to work together with the Ad Council to help us to better understand the issues and motivations beyond access, so that we can ensure that more young people’s voices are heard.”

“These directional insights and forthcoming deeper quantitative analysis through our partnership with MTVE will empower so many organizations working nationally and locally to activate young voters across the country,” said Derrick Feldmann, lead researcher and managing director of ACRI and Ad Council Edge, in a statement. “It’s critical that we understand not only where to reach young voters, but also what messaging will prove to be most effective in the bipartisan effort to mobilize them and ensure their representation during the upcoming midterms.”

The complete report and findings released today can be accessed here.

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