Democracy Depends on Political Participation But Young People are Turning Away from Politics And Now We’re Caught in a Vicious Cycle.
Decision-makers prioritize the demands of their most politically active constituents
Young people (especially low-income populations) do not participate in politics at the same level as other demographics
Young people (especially low-income populations) are frustrated and disillusioned by politics
POLITICS AND POLITICAL PARTICIPATION STILL MATTERS
Despite the reality that so many social and economic issues are currently facing our country, young people are increasingly divorcing themselves from the political process. This is occurring despite concrete evidence of youth idealism and energy in other non-political areas. Indeed, the majority of young people in America care deeply about political issues like the economy, immigration, and gun violence. Yet, while over half of Millennials regularly volunteer, even more think that the best way to make positive change is through volunteering and charities – not through political action.
But politics, and political participation, still matters – it’s the best way to solve the pressing issues of our time, from the economy to immigration. And we are not teaching young people the knowledge and skills necessary to be active citizens. The recent focus on STEM education and focus on standardized testing of core subjects, while necessary in some respects, has largely pushed the discipline of civics out of the classroom. We are not teaching young people the importance of being politically engaged.
A recent National Assessment of Educational Progress test demonstrated that only 23% of 8th graders were proficient in civics, the worst result in any subject besides history.
A CIVIC ENGAGEMENT GAP EXISTS
Most importantly, young people are receiving unequal civic learning opportunities, especially in rural, urban, and low-income schools. When compared with average socioeconomic status (SES) schools, low-income students are half as likely to study how laws are made, and 30% less likely to report having experiences with debates or panel discussions in social studies classes, while 60% of residents live in civic deserts, compared with 30% for urban and suburban residents. This reality has been coined as the “Civic Engagement Gap.” It should be noted that does not lead to young people being less likely to want to make a difference in their communities. But, on the whole, this civic opportunity gap leads to a lack of young people learning how to use the system to make change.
Students in low-income schools, when compared with just average socioeconomic status (SES) schools are 30% less likely to report having experiences with debates or panel discussions in social studies classes.
TRUST IN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HAS DROPPED DRAMATICALLY
In 1973, pew found that most young people trusted the government to do the right thing
Now only 20% of millenials trust the federal government to do what is right most of the tme
So it’s no surprise that political behavior has declined, too. In the 2014 miderm elections, only 20% of 18-29 year olds voted - the lowest youth turnout on record.