Civic Engagement

(MWA photo)

Growing public support for the protection and expansion of our outdoor way of life

We're encouraging young voters to put their outdoor values into action at the ballot box

We created the Public Lands in Public Hands campaign for two reasons: to keep America's public lands from being transferred to individual states and sold off to private interests, and to build public support for the protection and expansion of our outdoor way of life. Our success depends on citizens of all political persuasions standing up as conservationists and voting in larger numbers. For this reason, we’ve been asking tens of thousands of Montana citizens to sign a pledge card to vote for our public lands since 2012.

Setting Ambitious Goals for the 2018 Election

For the 2018 election, we placed special emphasis on outreach to youth, a group that typically doesn’t vote in large numbers in midterm elections. We also raised our voter turnout goal to 8,000 people (up from 3,000 in 2016) to pledge to vote for Montana’s public lands. We set these goals and put in this effort to ensure that an increasing number of Montanans put their outdoor values into action at the ballot box.

Much of our work took place on Montana’s two largest university campuses, the University of Montana in Missoula and Montana State University in Bozeman. We spent time engaging students in front of classrooms, at volunteer and internship fairs, and at student group mixers. After engaging students at the flagship campuses, we set our sights on six other universities and college campuses around the state.

To gather even more vote pledges, we tabled at Pearl Jam’s Rock2Vote Concert in Missoula, as well at the Sweet Pea Festival in Bozeman, the Bridger Raptor Festival, the Billings Harvest Festival, and many other festivals in Montana

We had vote pledge volunteers and staff at several local farmers’ markets, local art events, and other community events. We also reached out to conservation supporters at the Montana Undivided Rally, the 60th Anniversary of Wildfest, and at local MWA Chapter events.

All of this work contributed to MWA’s biggest vote pledge effort to date.

Breaking Records in the 2018 Election

We surpassed our goal and collected 8,281 pledges, which is greater than 1 percent of Montana’s voting population. While 30 percent of our pledges came from Missoula County and 49 percent from Gallatin County, we had pledgers from 49 out of 56 counties – four more counties than were represented in 2016. We also succeeded in engaging our target youth population: of the pledges we collected, a whopping 55 percent came from 18-24 year olds, 19 percent came from 25-34 year olds, and 26 percent came from Montanans 35 and older.

The results of this work were impressive. While the youth vote was up across Montana, young people ages 18-34 who submitted pledge-to-vote cards with MWA voted at a rate 40 percent higher than their peers, with 81% of young pledgers turning out to vote. The effect was even stronger among unlikely voters (young and first-time voters): turnout among unlikely registered voters who pledged was 63 percent, a rate 75 percent higher than their peers who didn’t pledge.

Our effort to engage young voters didn’t end on election day. It has continued through rallies and in our day-to-day work galvanizing young Montanans across the state to take action on behalf of our wild public lands.