FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Are Young People More Politically Engaged than their Elders?

Conventional wisdom holds that young people don't pay much attention to politics or current events.  Yet a new study by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press has found that Americans aged 18-29 (Gen-Y, Millennials, GenNext, DotNet, etc.) appear to be more politically active than previously believed.

The report cites Census data showing a sharp uptick in youth voter turnout between 2000 and 2004 (although they still trail their elders significantly), and evidence that more young people are active in fundraising and volunteering their services.  Furthermore, young people are more likely to hold liberal political views and favor Democratic candidates than their GenX and Boomer elders, though the ratio of Democrats/Republicans is about the same as with Boomers when they were that age.  That liberal viewpoint, however, is not wholly uniform; while young people are more likely than their elders to support gay marriage and hold a favorable view of government, they are also less supportive of abortion on demand.

With easy access to news and political discussion online and on 24-hour cable, there's no reason why today's youth shouldn't be more politically literate than their predecessors.  Plus, with many of their peers serving in Iraq and other flashpoints across the globe, young people have a stake in the decisions our elected officials make.  The true test of their political commitment though, will be whether it holds as they grow older, and whether their perspective change as they launch careers or raise families.