Young voters not impressed by Web 2.0 election coverage, U.S. study suggests

As Canadian news organizations bid to outdo each other in displaying Web 2.0 savvy in their online election coverage, a U.S. study of young voters suggests they should beware of going overboard. Younger voters, it reports, may actually be turned off. “From ‘Too Much’ to ‘Just Right’: Engaging Millennials in Election News on the Web”, published by the Media Management Center at Northwestern’s Medill School, is based on interviews and focus group sessions with 89 young, first-time voters in Chicago about what gets their attention and serves their needs in U.S. online election coverage. Among the report’s findings:

  • Young voters aren’t impressed when news sites try to attract them by incorporating amateur (aka User-Generated) content and social networking into election coverage. Young voters go to news sites because they are looking for serious material gathered, assessed and packaged with expertise and professionalism.
  • They often find user comments to be discordant, nasty and uninformed. If users are allowed to comment on election coverage, young voters prefer that posts be moderated.
  • Young voters don’t necessarily want to follow election news on a daily basis but they do want a place to go at a time of their choosing to become informed about major campaign issues, candidate positions and important events. They also want to learn more about the nuts and bolts of the electoral system.

It’s a limited, qualitative study based on a geographically narrow cohort of respondents in the United States but it does suggest Canadian news organizations should look before they leap into incorporating everything that’s new and shiny into their online election coverage. What young voters want, it seems, is something that looks a lot like … journalism.

(Photo by Carol Esther. Reprinted under Creative Commons license.)