CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement) conducts research on civic education in schools, colleges, and community settings and on young Americans’ voting and political participation, service, activism, media use, and other forms of civic engagement. It is based at the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University.
Established in 2001 based on a recommendation of the National Commission on Civic Renewal, CIRCLE quickly earned its reputation for reliable, independent, timely research. CIRCLE’s research is widely cited in scholarly publications and most national news media ranging from The New York Times to CNN. CIRCLE’s special publications, such as The Civic Mission of Schools report (jointly published with Carnegie Corporation of New York, 2003), Higher Education: Civic Mission & Civic Effects (jointly published with The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in 2006), and Peter Levine’s book The Future of Democracy (2007) have changed the public discourse on how citizens, particularly young people, engage in civic and political life, and the kinds of programs and activities in schools and colleges that foster student civic learning and engagement in democracy.
A national leader in civic education and research, Tisch College is setting a standard for higher education’s role in civic engagement. Engaging students and faculty from all Tufts schools, Tisch College supports a wide range of interdisciplinary, community-based research and generates an enduring culture of active citizenship across the university.
CIRCLE has built the research field.
CIRCLE has a reputation for reliable, independent, timely research. Harvard University Professor Robert Putnam has said of CIRCLE: “You’ve brought the best and most serious research to one place. You’ve applied an expert screen on the research. It’s a crucial contribution to the field. It’s a model for policy relevant and academic debates. [It’s] useful to have someone studying the issue who’s outside the debate and can be a reliable source for information.” CIRCLE’s research is widely cited in scholarly publications. Google Scholar™ (a search engine restricted to scholarly publications) finds 41,800 publications that cite CIRCLE by its full name. CIRCLE’s special publications, such as The Civic Mission of Schools report (jointly published with Carnegie Corporation of New York, 2003), Higher Education: Civic Mission & Civic Effects (jointly published with The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in 2006), and Peter Levine’s book The Future of Democracy (2007) provide literature reviews and summaries.
CIRCLE has begun to change public discourse and press coverage about young people as citizens
CIRCLE is doing this by providing a stream of reliable data and analysis that helps Americans to understand the strengths and weaknesses of civic education, broadly defined. Our research has been cited in most national newspapers, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times, and on CNN, NPR, PBS, MTV, and Fox News. In the months between July 2008 and the 2008 presidential election, CIRCLE was cited in 1,253 newspaper, magazine, broadcast, or web stories, including 829 print media articles.
CIRCLE has changed political campaigns in American by helping to show that it is cost-effective to mobilize people between the ages of 18 and 30.
Although one major focus of our work is schooling, we recognize that young people are also educated for citizenship in other venues. Specifically, when young adults are contacted by political campaigns, they gain political knowledge and interest and become more likely to participate in other ways, such as volunteering. However, most politicians and campaigns dropped young people from their target lists during the 1980s and 1990s. In response, CIRCLE has supported, organized, and analyzed experiments designed to test the effectiveness of various forms of campaigning when directed at young voters. The main lesson of these experiments is that it is cost-effective for both major parties to canvass young people. We believe that this research helped to influence the Democrats and Republicans to target youth in 2004 and 2008 so far, contributing to the eleven percentage-point rise in youth turnout in 2004 over 2000 and dramatic turnout in the 2008 primaries and caucuses. (A senior official on one national presidential campaign wrote after the 2004 election: “I literally would have been lost without CIRCLE on the campaign!!! You would laugh if you read any of my briefing memos or talking points—they are littered with CIRCLE research.”)
CIRCLE has provided training and technical assistance to many organizations, mostly direct providers of services to youth.
Since 2008, CIRCLE has answered research queries, provided tailored data to meet specific needs, attended meetings, reviewed materials and strategic plans, and/or served on advisory or governing boards of 240 separate organizations, including 40 institutions of higher education and 15 foundations. Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr. President of the Hip Hop Caucus, writes, “CIRCLE is a critical resource for groups like the Hip Hop Caucus and others who are trying to engage young people in the political process. Research directs our strategy for our work in the community, and the team at CIRCLE is always willing to provide us with the data and analysis that we need in order to have real impact and to reach the young people who are the least civically engaged.”