Millennials cite lack of local news as barrier to voting

Three-quarters of millennials interviewed for a new research report said lack of information about candidates for local office is among the biggest reasons they chose not to vote in local elections.

The report, a collaboration between The Knight Foundation and Lake Research, seeks to explain why millennials — the generation spanning the early 80s to the late 90s — are less likely to vote in local elections than they are in national ones. It's based on focus groups conducted with 60 millennials in the cities of Akron, Miami and Philadelphia. Each participant is a so-called "drop-off voter," a designation reserved for individuals who participated in the recent national election but did not cast ballots in the past local election.

Among focus group participants, 75 percent cited a dearth of information about local candidates as a barrier to voting. More than half (62 percent) said ignorance about the issues was among the biggest obstacles. And 40 percent of participants said there wasn't enough news coverage of local elections.

Whereas national elections are accompanied by a blitz of national media coverage that might sway young voters to cast their ballots, local elections receive far less attention, according to the report. In addition, many of participants surveyed didn't avail themselves of information about local elections because they didn't have the time or inclination. From the report:

Millennials in the focus groups cited a mistrust of media sources — both traditional and social — and find them to be partisan, distorted or irrelevant. Millennials convey a near total lack of information sources they can trust to provide unfiltered, real information on local candidates and issues. Without information, they are at a loss as to how to cast an educated vote so they don’t bother.

The report concludes by emphasizing the importance of reaching millennials on social media and in their respective communities. This recommendation dovetails with a new report by the Pew Research Center, released Monday, that shows millennials' chief political news source is Facebook, followed by cable news and local television.

You can read the full Knight Foundation report here. The Knight Foundation is hosting a Twitter chat about the report at 1 p.m. ET on June 11.

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    Benjamin Mullin

    Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism innovation, business practices and ethics.

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