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Youth Civic Engagement Today

(OP: FEBRUARY 15, 2018)

Are Youth Involved?

The notion of civic engagement spurs an image of an older population. Civic engagement is, however, defined by no barriers, or constraints of age, as the sphere of political influence is not particular. It is reported that young Americans are the most politically active on social networking platforms, with a whopping two-thirds of young adults, ages 18 to 24, engaging in some sort of political activity on social networking sites. This political enthusiasm has, however,  failed to translate outside of the realm of the internet. It has largely been reported that the majority of millenial voters are unable to identify with either traditional political parties.

Partisan Identification

Millennials are significantly more left-leaning than other adult generations. In fact, they are the only generation whose ideology is prevailingly left of center. Social issues, such as LGBTQ+ rights and racial equality, are also considered more important by Millennials than any other generation. This was first evident during the George W. Bush administration (2004), where the president failed to garner the enthusiasm of young voters. Young voters tend to develop political preferences based on the outcomes they see from politicians when they first become politically active, so it is not surprising that Millennials tend to swing to the left in response to Republicans’ unpopularity.

The Internet and Social Media

Social media sites in particular are emerging as effective platforms for civic engagement and communication. In the 2016 Democratic Primary Elections, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont won four states over Hillary Clinton, and in each of those states he garnered over 80% of the Millennial vote. It was later found that Sanders’ edge over Clinton in these states could be predicted by looking at Facebook ‘likes’ for each of their Facebook pages. In all states, an analysis of a certain demographics ‘likes’ on a politicians page can predict how that demographic would vote in the primary.

Social media campaigns have been shown to give candidates an edge over opponents with larger campaign funds, which typically was the most reliable predictor of a candidate’s success. This makes social media a powerful tool to reach Millennials for any purpose, whether to garner attention for a campaign or increase civic engagement through the Involved platform.

Overall Engagement and Participation

In 2011, a Compact Campus survey found that 37% of students were engaged in social change behaviors for an average of 3.62 hours per week. Community service is the most common social change behavior as opposed to political activities, because it is more familiar and accessible to students.  A study in the Journal of College and Character found that the largest predictors of students’ interest in civic activities were involvement in a student organization, leadership training and education, and discussion of social issues.

Youth Civic Engagement Today

Regardless of how one interprets civic engagement, the results of the distributed survey suggest that that there is an interest from Millennials to engage, primarily within the political sphere. Drawing upon the inclination for Millenials to be most politically active on social media, Involved has the potential to attract this demographic, due to its simplistic, instantaneous platform, which allows for direct communication with one’s representative(s). Involved is the solution to incite Millennials to not only participate, but to play a key role in shaping Democracy. In allowing civic engagement to exist online, the narrative excluding younger generations from political engagement will no longer exist; civic engagement will be catered to the needs of an ever-evolving society.

Fisher, Patrick. "A Political Outlier: The Distinct Politics of the Millennial Generation." Society, 2017, 1-6.
“The Millennial Vote in the 2016 Democratic Primary Elections.” Southeastern Geographer, vol. 56, no. 3, 2016, pp. 272–282.
Winograd, Morley, Hais, Michael D. "Millennial Makeover MySpace, YouTube, and the Future of American Politics." New Brunswick, N.J., Rutgers University Press, 2008.
Johnson, Matthew. “Predictors of College Students Engaging in Social Change Behaviors.” Journal of College and Character, vol. 15, no. 3, 2014, pp. 149–164.