Thursday, February 18, 2010

Radio Voting Drive

Today voting drives are often tied to the internet, new media. It led to a landslide victory for the dems. Young people, always tapped into new media were disproportionately connected. the same was true in the 1970s. FM radio was new media and so FM radio registered them in droves.FM was particularly active in the contentious election of 1972 Nixon Vs. McGovern. The Democratic ticket was in chaos. Kennedy was supposed to run but accidentally drowning his mistress at Chappaquiddick ended any chance of that. There was a police riot in Chicago where hundreds of young war protesters were beaten by Chicago cops at the DNC. The election was a contest between an incumbent Republican and an anti-war Democrat. It's more complicated than that but all elections are. I highlight that topic because the anti-war vote is a youth vote. That's where FM came in.

FM radio was the new media at the time and it's demographics leaned heavily toward the young. This is the kind of thing that excites pollsters. Young people generally vote liberal, the problem is that they generally don't vote. It's a two step process, you have to register them, then they have to show up. So FM radio stations made a push for the first part.

In Philadelphia WMMR pushed the youth vote all day every day. They ran announcements about voter registration. They even regularly announced the locations of voting drives. Because of Pennsylvania law they were not allowed to register voters themselves, but they could advocate, so they did.

Program Director Jerry Stevens was fully committed to the project. In San Antonio KTSA made a similar effort, sponsoring a free rock concert for the high school registering the most new voters. The winner was Holy Cross High school for registering 3,800 voters.

KPFK in Los Angeles sponsored voting drives even giving away free records to the newly registered. KMET carried voter registration drives live on air. WBSR in Pensacola sponsored registration drives as well. Registering voters in their own lobby they signed up 2,500 new voters in time for the primaries.

In Sacramento KROY painted their radio station red white and blue for the election season. PD Bob Sherwood had the station staff deputized so that they all could register voters personally.

Altogether it was a monumental effort. The results weren't inspiring. Nixon swept the election, McGovern only carrying Massachusetts and Delaware. but two years later, as Nixon was impeached the tide turned and emboldened those same new voters elected Jimmy Carter. Better late than never.