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Youth Attitudes & Beliefs

CIRCLE collects data on youth attitudes pertinent to civic engagement, such as interest in public affairs, trust, confidence in government, and efficacy (the sense that one can make a difference).

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How Generation Y is Redefining Faith in The iPod Era

In a nationwide survey, 18-25 year olds from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and religious affiliations, including youth who do not identify themselves with a religion, overwhelmingly demonstrated their openness to religious diversity. Clear majorities also expressed more liberal political views than older generations on issues such as gay marriage and legal abortion. Additionally, a majority of respondents reported participating in some kind of community service and volunteer activity within the past year. At the same time, however, and despite efforts to draw young voters during the November presidential election, respondents ranked politics at the bottom of their lists of volunteer interests.

The survey-conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and sponsored by Reboot-reached 1,385 youth respondents, and included over-samples of Muslim, Jewish, Asian, African American, and Hispanic youth. For full survey results, see "OMG! How Generation Y Is Redefining Faith in the iPod Era."

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Youth Attitudes - Politics, Government, & Political Issues
CIRCLE Working Paper 17: Trust in Government-Related Institutions and Civic Engagement among Adolescents: A Re-analysis of IEA 1999 Data and Future Planning by Judith Torney-Purta, provides international comparisons of 90,000 14 year-olds on a range of attitudes & beliefs. Interesting findings include:

- In the US, trust in government is associated with classroom lessons about voting/elections, students' perception that they have a voice in their schools, and newspaper reading. It is not associated with civic knowledge, discussing politics with parents, or membership in religious groups.

- Trust in government is associated with intentions to vote, although it is not a leading predictor.

- Whereas the intention to vote is associated with classroom instruction, other forms of political participation (forming opinions, writing political letters, and joining parties) are predicted better by out-of-school factors, namely parental behavior and students' sense of their own personal efficacy.

Dr. Torney-Purta has also authored a CIRCLE Fact Sheet on how trust in government relates to civic engagement.

See survey data from a national sample of 15-25 year-old American youth National Youth Survey 2002 & National Youth Survey 2003.

For more information on youth attitudes towards homosexuality and gay rights, see the relevant National Youth Survey toplines, a Lake Snall Perry Memorandum and a CIRCLE press release.

For more information on youth attitudes towards different internet campaigning techniques including blogs, email, & banner ads see CIRCLE fact sheet: "Young People and Political Campaigning on the Internet" and a CIRCLE press release.

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Young Americans Most Tolerant Age Group

A CIRCLE Fact Sheet shows that young Americans are more favorable than other age groups toward people sometimes targeted by intolerance, including gays and lesbians, racial and ethnic minorities, and immigrants. The data show that young Americans are the most tolerant age group, and this tolerance and support for diversity is increasing over time. Some key findings include:

  • 69% of 18-29 year-old voters supported gay marriage or legal civil unions for gay and lesbian couples compared to 60% of 30-44 and 45-59 year-old voters, and 54% of those 60 and older. (2004 National Election Pool, exit poll.)

  • Between 1994 and 2000, the percentage of 18-25 year-olds who agree that blacks "have gotten less than they deserve," rose 12 percentage points to 38% (National Election Survey, NES.

  • In 2002, 60% of 15-25 year olds agreed with the statement "Immigrants today strengthen our country because of their hard work," compared to 51% of 26-37 year-olds, 49% of 38-56 year-olds, and 42% of those 57 and over. (CIRCLE's Civic and Political Health of a Nation Survey.)

Click here to read the press release.


Youth Attitudes & Political Socialization
For information on the influence of neighborhoods & communities see the CIRCLE-funded book "Cultivating Democracy: Civic Environments and Political Socialization in America" by James G. Gimpel, J. Celeste Lay, and Jason E. Schuknecht available for order here.

For information on how young people's attitudes were affected by September 11th and the 2000 elections see “Learning about Politics from History: Political Generations, Democratic Engagement, and Transformative Events” by Nancy Burns & Donald R. Kinder.

For information on creating programs and policies to promote positive citizenship see "Promoting Positive Citizenship: Priming Youth for Action". This research challenges the traditional theoretical model that programs designed to encourage civic engagement should focus solely on opportunities to participate in civic behaviors, such as volunteering.

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Efficacy
CIRCLE's analysis of the 2002 Youth Voting Survey found that efficacy is a particularly important attitude which predicts young people's willingness to volunteer and to vote. In turn, efficacy correlates with various background factors:

Explaining "Making A Difference"
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Materialism

The following trend, drawn from Higher Education Research Institute data, is also interesting:

Changing Priorites: Money Counts
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According to Wendy M. Rahn and John E. Transue, "Both aggregate time series correlations and an individual-level model show that the rapid rise of materialistic value orientations that occurred among American youth in the 1970s and 1980s severely eroded levels of social trust." (Rahn and Transue, "Social Trust and Value Change: The Decline of Social Capital in American Youth, 1976-1995, Political Psychology, vol. 19, no. 3, 1998, pp. 545-565. CIRCLE has requested permission to reprint this article here.)


Interest in Public Sector Careers
The Council for Excellence in Government has released a new Hart-Teeter poll of young Americans and their interest in public service careers. It shows an increase in interest since 1997. Also, more young people are motivated by public spirit to consider jobs in the public sector; and more believe in the importance of giving national attention to domestic problems.