Resistance & Resilience: 2020 Political Recap

For almost a decade, the Alliance for Youth Action network has led groundbreaking youth electoral engagement across the country. Our network has been building for this moment and in 2020, we had our biggest year yet. Together, we made over 25 million contacts with young voters in 2020. This output reflects the incredible efforts by our network of 20 local grassroots organizations as well as the Alliance’s first-ever national mail voter contact program that served to help fill youth infrastructure gaps in key states. 

We worked alongside progressive partners in the youth sector to shift the youth vote narrative and uplift local young BIPOC organizers. The Alliance conducted a series of partisan polling to further inform the sector and push candidates on the issues that matter to young people. Despite facing unprecedented challenges, the Alliance empowered millions of young people to flex their political power this year, making a historic impact on the most important election of our lifetimes.

Check it out:

Shifting the Youth Vote Narrative

“Go To Source” on Youth Vote

In 2020 we conducted a series of polls to amplify the Alliance as a “go to source” on the youth vote, change the narrative about the youth vote, and push candidates on the issues that young people care about.

We kicked off the year with a national poll surveying Democratic and Democratic-leaning Independents ages 17 – 35 showing that young people are issues-first voters who by and large had yet to be contacted by Democratic candidates as the first contests of the 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary were underway. 

Starting in Summer of 2020, we released monthly polling on progressive youth in battleground states to help shape the youth vote narrative, uplift the issues young people prioritize, and flag engagement (or lack thereof) from the Biden campaign. Over time, we saw a slow, but steady increase in the Biden campaign contacting the young voters they needed most from nearly half (43%) not being contacted in July 2020 to three-quarters (75%) of young swing state persuadable voters saying they had been contacted by the Biden campaign less than two weeks before the election. Our five monthly polls have led to stories in multiple outlets The Hill and MSNBC. After the election, we ran a final poll of the young people who propelled President Biden and Vice President Harris to victory that dug into their issue priorities and commitment to future organizing. 

Digital Metrics on Polls 

Site visits to Alliance’s research page: 13,286
Organic impressions from social about polls: 66,865
*Polls are high-performing content on Instagram and Twitter
Paid media impressions about polls: 276,193

Youth Letter to Biden

On April 8th, the Alliance for Youth Action released an open letter to then presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in coalition with seven national Millennial and Generation Z progressive organizations – IfNotNow Movement, Justice Democrats, March for Our Lives Action Fund, NextGen America, Student Action, Sunrise Movement, and United We Dream Action. This open letter expressed concern over VP Biden’s inability to earn the trust of the vast majority of Generation Z and Millennial voters and demanded a number of policies and personnel commitments he should prioritize to bridge the generational divide in the Democratic Party. The open letter was released just hours after Senator Bernie Sanders announced the suspension of his campaign, which helped garner media attention in early April. Major press hits and media opportunities for the Alliance included the following: 

New York Times Editorial Board Op-Ed: Hey Kids! Get Out There and Vote

Sarah’s Letter to the Editor in response to NYT Editorial Board’s op-ed

The Hill: Progressives look for concession from Biden with running mate

LA Times: Inspired by Bernie Sanders, young progressives are headed to a political seat near you

NowThis: Biden Letter video (featuring our Communications Manager, Daniela!) >>>

After the release of the letter, we saw important movement on the issues young people care about most, shifts in the way the campaign spoke about their work, many of the personnel demands added to the Biden-Sanders unity task force, and increased contact by the Biden campaign to young voters. 

Additional Press


Starting in June 2020, our monthly poll series was key in changing the youth vote narrative and pushing candidates on the issues that matter most to young people. This Politico article rang the alarm on the lack of Biden campaign contact.


On August 8th, Sarah was on MSNBC Live with Alicia Menendez with Alliance Board member, Ben Wessel, to discuss how VP Biden can earn the youth vote

Mail to Persuade & Mobilize

To help fill gaps in c4 youth infrastructure in particular, the Alliance for Youth Action ran a four piece mail program targeting 18-25 year olds in GA, NC, and PA. Between August and October, we sent 4 pieces of persuasion and mobilization mail to nearly 700,000 young voters in these three states. Our mail pieces provided information about Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Kamala Harris, and their plans to address the issues young people care about. 

With additional support, we were able to expand our initial program into South Carolina and Texas. In South Carolina, we sent one mobilization mail piece to over 300,000 young voters with information about Jaime Harrison. In Texas, we repurposed creative from the original three-state presidential persuasion program and mailed it to nearly 1 million young Texans. This expanded Texas program was intended to fill a gap identified by our local Affiliate, MOVE Texas, targeting 18-39 year olds in targeted Congressional Districts, State House Districts, and key counties. In total, we sent 4,015,236 individual pieces to a universe of nearly 2 MM young people in GA, NC, PA, SC and TX that are typically left out of other traditional persuasion and mobilization efforts. Overall more than half of the combined mail universe voted, including more than 400,000 people who had never voted in a general election before.

See more pets with our mailers here

We worked with partners to get additional texts sent to follow up with some of our mail targets. Color of Change PAC texted approximately 70,000 voters within our South Carolina mobilization universe and NextGen America texted and called about 200,000 voters within our Texas persuasion universe, with a particular emphasis on El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley.

Preparing for the Georgia Senate Runoff Elections 

Ahead of the crucial federal runoff elections in Georgia that were set to determine control of the US Senate, the Alliance ran a text, mail, and call program from mid-November to Election Day to reach young voters. Building on our 2020 general election work in Georgia, we focused on messaging on turnout: absentee ballot request, absentee ballot chase, early voting information, turnout/election day information, and social pressure.

Through this program, we sent 1.53 million text messages, 830,000 pieces of mail, and made more than 820,000 calls to a universe of 980,000 young Georgians. Our universe targeted young voters of color, of whom 75% were young Black voters. This program turned out 378,871 voters in the runoff, including 35,505 young people who didn’t vote in the November general election.

The 2020 Alliance Voter Guide

Research has shown that when young people don’t turn out to vote, many will point to two main reasons: 

  • 1. They believe all politicians are the same 
  • 2. They could not find reliable information about the candidates.

At the same time, polling shows that young voters’ top reason for turning out is to make a difference on the issues they care about. Enter the Alliance Voter Guide. Since 2014, the Alliance network has run a c4 voter guide program that provides clear, concise, issue-based contrasts between candidates and measures on the ballot.

In preparation for this historic election year, the Alliance overhauled and revamped our voter guide generator that local groups used to create over a million localized print guides. We also worked with BallotReady to support the creation of digital guides across the network this year.

Young people solidified their power in 2020 with an estimated 50% national youth voter turnout in the Presidential election! Be sure to check out our full 2020 Digital Annual Report to learn more about some of the youth organizations and organizers behind these results.