Give us your huddled masses of Millennials, and we’ll give you a powerful voice for the future.
With 45 million voters between the ages of 18 and 29, Millennials make up an outsized portion of the electorate. Members of the generation voted in record numbers in 2008 — but would they come to the polls in 2012 despite growing disaffection due to gridlock in Washington and bad economic times?
“They’ve got this power,” said MTV president Stephen K. Friedman. “Will they exert it?”
MTV wanted to make sure they did. So the network rebooted its election coverage for 2012 as Power of 12, a campaign to unleash the power of Millennials not only in November but for years to come.
Power of 12 was a new kind of campaign for a new generation that has grown up online. Like the legendary Choose or Lose campaigns, it sought to explain key issues and the candidates’ positions on them, amplify the voices of young people to ensure candidates are addressing their concerns, simplify the voter registration process and urge the young to vote. But Power of 12 placed increasing emphasis on social media and introduced a totally modern way to get young voters involved — with an online game.
MTV Fantasy Election ’12 was a fun and engaging way for young voters to focus on the race. Like fantasy football, the game got players to draft a team of candidates pursuing the Presidency or Congress, earning and losing points based on how their candidates behaved in the real world. Candidates were judged in five areas — constituent engagement, honesty, transparency, civility and public opinion — with objective data supplied by PolitiFact, RealClearPolitics and a dozen other nonpartisan organizations.
Players also won points by reading campaign news, watching political programming and checking in to election events.
Roughly 20,000 young voters played, collectively taking nearly half a million actions. A survey conducted with the help of researchers at New York University found that almost half of the players said they became more politically active as a result of the game.
Power of 12 did much more to get young people involved. An animated GIF campaign with some of Tumblr’s best-known artists helped register nearly 10,000 young voters. And online video content, including a collaboration with Funny or Die featuring the Jersey Shore cast and a clip called “Barackdubs” showing President Obama singing “Call Me Maybe,” drew 35 million views and helped register thousands of voters.
And, just like previous MTV campaigns, Power of 12 supplied comprehensive election news and information online and on the air, all geared to the concerns of young voters.
The TV star Erin Sanders, known for her roles on Nickelodeon’s Zoey 101 and Big Time Rush, expressed the hopes of the campaign in an interview at MTV’s Video Music Awards. “My fantasy is that everyone goes and makes an informed vote, not just listening to what their dad says or what their best friend wants or what their favorite celebrity thinks,” she said. “Everyone should go and watch a lot of news and do a lot of research and get all the facts. Decide that way, not by hearsay.”
Power of 12 contributed to an unexpectedly strong youth turnout in the 2012 election. According to CIRCLE — a leading national authority on youth political engagement — about 50 percent of Millennials eligible to vote took part in the 2012 election, essentially the same numbers as the historic youth voter turnout in 2008. Additionally, young voters grew as a share of the electorate from 18 percent in 2008 to 19 percent in 2012, showing that their collective voice only grew louder this election year.
“The political process can be very complex if you never really look into it. When I first started working at MTV, I felt disenfranchised. You know, I never thought my voice, my vote counted. Also, I didn’t know what to care about — politics can seem like a foreign language if you’re not up on the jargon.
So I think a lot of people turn their backs on it when they don’t understand it. MTV’s Power of 12 helps people to understand it and breaks it down for you in a way where you can see how it all relates to you and how each and every one of us is affected by the decisions that are made in Washington, D.C.”
Sway Calloway, MTV News Correspondent