Aug 31, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Dems' vote-shaming turnout strategy

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A leading Democratic super PAC is looking to boost young voters' turnout in November through a public pressure campaign, explaining it's a matter of public record whether individuals cast a ballot or sit out the election.

Why it matters: Studies have shown "vote shaming" can be an effective way to increase voter participation. Priorities USA's approach uses digital ads and social media to tap into more than 8 million young people newly eligible to vote this year.

  • Priorities prefers the term "social pressure" to describe the tactic. The group says it's devoted significant resources to research and data efforts designed to maximize its effectiveness in turning out Democratic voters.

The big picture: It's part of a digital-centric strategy for the super PAC, which plans to spend about $30 million this cycle — with none going toward traditional TV advertising.

Driving the news: "Who you vote for is secret. But whether you decide to cast a vote or not is public. So keep making your community proud this November," says one of the ads posted last week on social media pages.

  • "This is Bob," says another ad, featuring an animated stick figure. "Bob liked posting that he voted in 2020 ... But we know he let his voter registration get out of date. Don't be like Bob."
  • The ads are running on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, streaming music services and connected TV, Priorities deputy executive director Aneesa McMillan told Axios.
  • So far, it's spent just under $200,000 on the campaign, which also includes messages designed to educate voters on how to check their registration status.

Zoom in: Ad disclosure data show the ads are targeting people in specific zip codes in Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, all key midterm battleground states.

  • The zip codes targeted by the Facebook and Instagram ads include urban centers and areas around large universities, while a number of more rural zip codes are specifically excluded.
  • Disclosure data on Snapchat shows the ads are aimed at people ages 18-34.

What they're saying: "It is a light hearted, almost comical way of addressing it in a sense of trying to get folks to understand kind of the community aspect of voting," McMillan said in an interview.

  • "We have an entire research apparatus that we have built upon since 2017 to make sure that our targeting and tactics are accurate," McMillan said.

What we're watching: Newly eligible young voters have the potential to sway key midterm elections but too often are ignored or under-targeted, according to Tufts University researchers.

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