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The Divide & Conquer Election of 2012


Dianne G. Bystrom, Mary C. Banwart and Mitchell S. McKinney

alieNATION presents research conducted by a national election team and leading scholars in political communication that explores a range of important topics and variables affecting voter attitudes and behavior in the 2012 U.S. presidential election.
In exploring the messages, issues, and voters of the 2012 election, these studies employ multiple methods including experimental design, content analysis, rhetorical criticism, and survey research. Whereas other election research tends to investigate either the content or effects of campaign communication, the more comprehensive and systematic nature of this collection enables alieNATION to cohere thematically around considerations of voter alienation, political engagement, political efficacy, and ultimately, citizens’ voting decisions.
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Chapter Four: Reaching Young Voters in the Middle: Party Loyalty and Perception of Political Participation


← 65 | 66 → CHAPTER FOUR


Winston Churchill once said, “If you’re not a liberal at 20 you have no heart, if you’re not a conservative at 40 you have no brain.” This sentiment encapsulates the idea that, throughout one’s life, ideology changes and a voter’s allegiances to a party may shift over time. Although such movement in ideology is generally accepted over the course of one’s life, society generally paints youth as politically- charged beings who are strongly tied to issues, causes, and even political parties. From the means with which these young voters get political information to the way that they act upon it, the portrait of the first-time voter is constantly evolving.

And as such, changes are afoot in the political sphere as this new generation of voters comes of age and begins participating in a process that they have long been told has shut out their vote. As Lariscy, Tinkham, and Sweetser (2011) point out, young voters are distinctly different from their older counterparts. They see politics, political participation, and the overall election process differently. First-time voters are increasingly forfeiting the opportunity to align themselves with specific political parties and instead are calling themselves “independents” at a greater rate than previous generations (Sweetser, 2013). Even more interesting with regard to party loyalty, those who do identify with a political party are not opposed to crossing party lines once they finally get to the ballot box.

Even anecdotally,...

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