CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement)
conducts research on the civic and political engagement of young Americans.
The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement

E-Update December 2010

December 10th, 2010
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Young Voters in the 2010 Election

An estimated 22.8 percent of all eligible young people ages 18-29 voted in the 2010 midterms. Younger voters chose Democratic House candidates over Republican House candidates by a margin of 55%-42%. By a 62%-38% margin, younger voters approved of Barack Obama’s handling of his job as president. By a 53%-43% margin, they said that his policies will help the country in the long run. In contrast, a 55%-44% majority of all voters disapproved of the president and a 51%-43% majority of all voters said his policies will hurt the country.

These and other findings can be found in a new CIRCLE fact sheet, “Young Voters in the 2010 Election.”  The fact sheet, co-released by CIRCLE and the Generational Alliance, is based on data from the 2010 National Election Pool (NEP) national exit poll conducted by Edison Research.  Click here for more information.

Extracurricular Activities May Increase Likelihood of Voting

CIRCLE Working Paper #73 finds that participation in extracurricular activities, in general, promotes voting, though some activities (notably, some sports) decrease it. Authors Thomas and McFarland find that participation in high school performing arts is related to a higher rate of voting in early adulthood. Furthermore, some activities affect political ideology and party membership in adulthood, illustrating socialization into distinct political cultures. Additionally, they find patterns which suggest that religious attendance and a few sports steer students to the conservative end of the political spectrum and into the Republican party, while academic clubs, drama clubs, and honor society steer students towards the liberal end and/or into the Democratic party. Schools can create environments that encourage extracurricular involvement through funding and policy. But they can also discourage extracurriculars through neglect. These results demonstrate that which activities thrive and which shrink will have an impact on future voting behaviors of young adults.   Click here to learn more.

New Research on the Effectiveness of Political Discussion in K-12 Civic Education

CIRCLE Working Paper #72 addresses whether efforts to systematically incorporate media into school curricula increase several elements of civic engagement, including students’ media use, political knowledge or their sense of being able to understand and influence politics (internal political efficacy). In “The Classroom-Kitchen Table Connection: The Effects of Political Discussion on Youth Knowledge and Efficacy,” authors Vercellotti and Matto find that the combination of reading news articles and discussing them at home and school was related to increased information-seeking and political knowledge among students who were not in advanced placement and honors classes. Moreover, they find that students who were assigned to discuss articles at home with parents and who had parents who scored low on measures of political knowledge and efficacy, were the most likely to have increased scores on both dimensions by the end of the experiment. These results could provide guidance to practitioners looking for ways to involve parents in reinforcing what happens in the classroom by extending political discussions to the home as well.  Click here to learn more.

Youth Attitudes Toward Politics

In a recent report entitled, “Nastiness, Name-calling & Negativity: The Allegheny College Survey of Civility and Compromise in American Politics,” authors Kovacs and Shea find that average citizens are upset about incivility, although they differ by ideology, gender, and media use. “CIRCLE Working Paper #71″ focuses on the newest generation of voters, finding that they differ from their older counterparts, being less likely to believe that civility is possible, less ashamed about recent incivility, but more supportive of compromise and more optimistic about higher education’s role in promoting civility. Findings suggest a nearly universal recognition of the problem and a growing concern about the implications of an uncivil body politic. Further, the findings cast blame at a number of institutions, but also give reasons for optimism. Click here to learn more.

CIRCLE Intern Awarded Rhodes Scholarship

Laura Nelson, University of Virginia class of 2011, has been awarded a Rhodes Scholarship. Laura was a valued member of the CIRCLE research team as an intern in 2010 and was also a student in the Tufts Summer Institute of Civic Studies. She has combined scholarly investigation of civic engagement with innovative practical efforts, such as “Flash Seminars,” which convene faculty, students, and community members for one-time discussions of timely issues.  To learn more, click here.

Quick Facts about Young Voters in the 2010 Elections…

  • Younger voters were more racially and ethnically diverse than the electorate as a whole. Among younger voters, 65% were white, 16% Black, 14% Hispanic, 3% Asian, and 2% “all others.”
  • In contrast, among voters 30 and older, 80% were white, 10% Black, 7% Hispanic, 1% Asian, and 2% “all other.”
  • Seven percent of younger voters said they were gay, lesbian, or bisexual, compared to 4% of all voters.
  • Seventy-eight percent of the youth votes were cast by youth with college experience. Yet,only about 58% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 have college experience.

© 2010 CIRCLE (The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement)

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