Can Labor Translate Youth Support into Increased Off Year Turnout? Find Out Tuesday

The good news for public sector labor unions is that they have very strong support among young people. The overall rate of support is so high among younger voters that unions could possibly use a strategy of just trying to increase turnout for the entire age group instead of worrying about the more complicated task of micro-targeting potential supporters in the age bracket.

The bad news for unions is that young people are also notoriously bad at turning out to vote in odd year and non-November elections, which are exactly the type elections the unions are going to need to get their potential supporters to the polls for.

Very important to labor are the upcoming Wisconsin Supreme Court election, the Wisconsin recall elections, a 2011 ballot referendum in Ohio and, to a lesser degree, a potential union-backed 2011 ballot measure in California. All of them would be traditionally low turnout, off-cycle elections.

This special Wisconsin Supreme Court election happening next Tuesday, April 5th, will be a critical test case for the depth of youth support of labor unions. If strong youth support plus labor organizing leads to young people overcoming their normally low participation in this off-cycle election, it will not only lead to some short-term victories, but could serve as a model for a powerful youth-labor political alliance in the future.

On the other hand, if young people follow their tradition of not turning out, it could be a sign that while their support for public sector unions is a mile wide, it is also only an inch deep. That isn’t a strong foundation on which to build potential future coalition.

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at