However, the first signs of decreasing voter turnout occurred in the early 1960s, which was before the major upheavals of the late 1960s and 1970s. Robert D. Putnam argues that the collapse in civil engagement is due to the introduction of television. In the 1950s and 1960s, television quickly became the main leisure activity in developed nations. It replaced earlier more social entertainments such as bridge clubs, church groups, and bowling leagues. Putnam argues that as people retreated within their homes and general social participation declined so too did voting. Rosenstone and Hansen contend that the decline in turnout is the product of a change in campaigning strategies as a result of the so-called new media.
Before the introduction of television, almost all of a party's resources would be directed towards intensive local campaigning and get out the vote initiatives. In the modern era, these resources have been redirected to expensive media campaigns in which the potential voter is a passive participant. During the same period, negative campaigning has become ubiquitous in the United States and elsewhere and has been shown to impact voter turnout. Attack ads and smear campaigns give voters a negative impression of the entire political process. The evidence for this is mixed: elections involving highly unpopular incumbents generally have high turnout; some studies have found that mudslinging and character attacks reduce turnout, but that substantive attacks on a party's record can increase it
The decline in voter turnout is almost wholly concentrated among non-seniors. Those who began voting prior to 1960 maintain the same high turnout rates of that era. For each subsequent generation, starting with the one that came of age in the 1960s, turnout has steadily declined. Recent programs to increase the rates of voting among young people—such as MTV's "Rock the Vote" and the "Vote or Die" initiatives in the United States—may have marginally increased turnouts of those between the ages of 18 and 25 to vote. A number of governments and electoral commissions have also launched efforts to boost turnout. For instance Elections Canada has launched mass media campaigns to encourage voting prior to elections, as have bodies in Taiwan and the United Kingdom. Clearly engageing the electorate is the key.