A new CIRCLE study, “Understanding a Diverse Generation: Youth Civic Engagement in the United States,” shatters stereotypes and dispels conventional myths about the ways in which young people ages 18-29 are involved in the United States political system.
The study from CIRCLE, which is part of Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, uses U.S. Census data on young voters from across the United States and compares youth engagement in the 2008 and 2010 election cycles. Despite the over-simplified portrayal of young Americans in the news media, their political engagement is diverse. The study shows that at least three quarters of youth were somehow engaged in their community or in politics in both 2008 and 2010. But they engaged in very different ways. The key finding of the study is that young Americans were divided into six distinct patterns of engagement in recent years. In 2010, the clusters were:
• The Broadly Engaged (21% of youth) fill many different leadership roles;
• The Political Specialists (18%) are focused on voting and other forms of political activism;
• The Donors (11%) give money but do little else;
• The Under-Mobilized (14%) were registered to vote in 2010 but did not actually vote or participate actively;
• The Talkers (13%) report discussing political issues and are avid communicators online, but do not take action otherwise; and
• The Civically Alienated (23%) hardly engage at all.