When you register someone to vote at a concert, you really have no idea if he or she will actually make it to the polls on Election Day. Let’s face it, over the years we’ve registered a fair number of people who never thought much about politics until a musician said something from stage. And more than a few people we registered were probably a little tipsy.
So when we started getting data back regarding precisely how many people we registered actually voted, we were pretty thrilled to learn that about three quarters of you indeed pulled the lever on Nov. 3rd 2008. We were even more excited when an independent organization studied the voter registration work of 25 different organizations, and HeadCount had some of the best stats in all the key measurements.
Yeah, our report card arrived. And it looks like we got A’s. The study, prepared by the Washington, D.C.-based New Organizing Institute, won’t be public until next month, but the preliminary data in a draft version showed the following:
- 92% of the people we registered made it onto the voter rolls. We were number one in this category, (compared to about 25 other groups in this study, who averaged 80% in aggregate).
- 85% of our registrations were considered “impactful,” meaning the registration was unique and that the person was not already registered at the same address. This was the second best percentage for any group in the study.
- 72% of the people we successfully registered in the “field” (at concerts) voted, compared to a national average of 59%. In this category, we had the third best totals of any group.
It’s a little-known fact (outside the world of political wonks) that individual voting records are a matter of public record. Who you voted for is a secret, but whether you voted or not is recorded by each state and that information ends up in a massive database kept by a company called Catalist. Campaigns often buy that data and use it to target specific voters. Government entities, labor unions and nonprofits also access that data for various purposes. In this case, it was used to draw scientific conclusions about the efficacy of nonpartisan voter registration work. The study actually pinpointed specific presidential primary contests and Congressional races that were likely decided by the voter registration efforts of nonprofits like HeadCount and our brethren.
We are proud to be part of such a successful movement and we want to give a shout-out to other groups that did great work. The Bus Federation, a very cool coalition of groups based in Oregon, Colorado and Washington, consistently had some of the best numbers. The Student PIRG’s, a group we’ve worked with extensively over the years, had the highest voter turnout rate of any field program. Rock the Vote registered more people – primarily through their online voter registration tool – than any group in the study. Groups like Democracia U.S.A. the Progressive Future Education Fund, the NAACP, US Action and the often (and unfairly) maligned ACORN racked up huge numbers of registrations, primarily in poor inner city neighborhoods where driving voter turnout is historically difficult.
All of these groups had amazing accomplishments, and most faced challenges that go far beyond anything we face at a Dave Matthews, Phil and Friends, or Nine Inch Nails show (well, the Nine Inch Nails crowd is tough).
But bottom line – we have proven that the concert audience is politically engaged. We’ve also proven that we can economically and effectively get out the vote by working within the music community. We always believed it. Now we have proof.