Can Phish and the Flaming Lips Get You to Vote?

| Tue Oct. 26, 2010 5:00 AM EDT

Fans of The Roots, Flaming Lips, and Phish should probably answer their phones this week. To close voters' "enthusiasm gap," musicians such as Questlove, Wayne Coyne, and Jon Fishman are calling hundreds of concert-goers with a live reminder to show up for the November 2 election. All 25,000 music fans who signed HeadCount.org's "Pledge to Vote" will get some kind of pledge reminder prior to next Tuesday.

Why focus on voters who've already said that they'll vote, you might ask?

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Andy Bernstein, the executive director of HeadCount, explains: "It would be naive to think that someone pledging to vote at a concert automatically means they'll make it to the polls on Nov. 2nd. It's our job to remind them. Plus, a call from their favorite musician will make the elections more fun."

HeadCount's voting turnout strategy is supported by volumes of research (PDF) on youth voting. The gist: Young people are much more likely to vote when they are reminded about the election dates, and they know where to find their polling places. In other ways, young voters are just like folks in any other age group, with one major exception: There's a "trust" factor. Young, registered voters are much more likely to vote if they know and trust the person who is asking them to show up at the polls. 

So, in an election year when many voters suffer from "the enthusiasm gap," focusing energy to turn out the "enthusiastic base" seems like a smart strategy. I'll call HeadCount after elections to see how their current approach worked.