NOW on PBS talked this week with Ian Rowe, senior vice-president of strategic partnerships and public affairs for MTV, about young peoples' enthusiasm for participating in the 2008 election and what MTV is doing to motivate them. Will THIS be the year that young people make a big difference, or will it be another unfulfilled promise?
The overseer of MTV's presidential election coverage and its Choose or Lose campaign to mobilize young voters, Rowe -- as much as anyone -- has his fingers on the pulse of youth civic activism and the promise it holds. Below is part of that interview:
NOW: Many are calling 2008 the year of the youth vote. Do you think youth votes will have a substantial impact on the election?
IAN ROWE (IR): We absolutely think that this will be the year that young voters turn out at the polls and make a substantial difference in the outcome. If you look at the primaries alone, young people are turning out to vote. More than ever, young people are seeing that our next President will directly affect their daily lives. From rising gas prices to watching their friends and family members go off to war to seeing a rise in global warming and environmental issues, young people can directly see how the policies by the next president in office will make a direct impact on their lives.
MTV's research shows that 81 percent of our audience is closely monitoring this election, as compared to 58 percent earlier this year. Young people are paying attention to the issues and see the importance of this election. We absolutely think that will translate into increased numbers at the polls on November 4th.
NOW: What lessons did you learn about youth voting patterns in the primaries?
IR: The youth turnout at the polls this year was historic, [in some cases] quadrupling turnout from previous years. This year, 6.5 million young voters under the age of 30 turned out at the polls for the primaries, which is a dramatic increase from previous years. Over the last three election cycles, the youth vote has continued to rise consecutively, and we think this year will show even greater turnout than in 2004, which was the greatest in more than two decades.
NOW: What has been you biggest challenge in signing up young voters?
IR: We've found that many times, the difficulty of registering to vote or in obtaining absentee ballots can keep students away from the polls. We aim to make it as easy as possible for students, and to provide as much information to them in one place on ChooseorLose.com. For example, mtvU, our 24-hour college network, has partnered with GoVoteAbsentee.org, which gives students one place to log on and find detailed information on how to register to vote absentee for their home city. We also have a page devoted to all of the voter registration deadlines, and provide easy information on how to register to vote online through Declare Yourself, our voter registration partner.
NOW: Which issues are young people most interested in?