This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

“When you’re 18, you got to vote”: How memorable messages influence first-time voters’ political attitudes and voting behaviors




Raitz, Hannah Katharina

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis


Communication and Journalism

Restriction Status


Restriction Type


Date Available



Experiences and messages individuals receive growing up influence their way of thinking and socialization (Handel, 2011; Knapp et al., 1981). Messages that have a long-lasting impact on and significance for the individual and can be recalled at any later stage in life are called memorable messages (Stohl, 1986, Knapp et al., 1981). Communication research on memorable messages has increased drastically in the past three decades but has mainly focused on health behaviors related to prevention or treatment (Cooke-Jackson and Rubinsky, 2018). One area where scholars are especially interested in predicting and explaining behavior is voting. However, voting intentions have not been studied in the context of memorable messages. This study applies the Theory of Memorable Messages (ToMM) to examine memorable messages regarding voting. Even further, the impact of the presence of a memorable message on first time voters’ voting intention is analyzed using the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB). TPB suggests that behavioral intention can be predicted based on an individuals’ beliefs that lead to attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control (Ajzen, 1988). This study uniquely connects the study of memorable messages and the prediction of voting intentions on the example of the 2024 presidential election. Subjects of the study are 18-26-year-old American first-time voters, as the intention to vote in their first election ever determines their participation in future elections (Schäfer et al., 2020) and is therefore especially meaningful to examine. To understand the memorable messages’ content as well as their impact on an individuals’ beliefs about voting, a qualitative sample of participants were interviewed to gain an understanding of first-time voters’ underlying behavioral, normative, and control beliefs about voting. An additional quantitative survey was conducted with the same population to gather data on the TPB variables attitudes, norms, and perceived behavioral control on voting as well as voting intentions for the 2024 presidential and future elections. The study’s results speak about the relevance that childhood messages have regarding behavioral intentions as a first-time voter and contain practical implications to design effective voting-encouragement messages. The findings furthermore hold insights on what makes a message related to voting memorable for a child or young adult and therefore can help educate families and educators on how to talk to children about voting.