Allegheny College Study: Young Voters Are Low Priority for Political Parties Party Chairs Blame Schools, Negative Campaigning and the Media



    MEADVILLE, Pa., April 5 /PRNewswire/ -- Local political party chairs are
 not paying attention to young people, even though an overwhelming majority
 agree that the political disengagement by young people is a serious problem
 and that parties can make a big difference involving this group, according to
 a groundbreaking study released today. The Republican and Democratic party
 chairs say the main causes of the problem of youth participation lies in
 deficient high school preparation, negative campaigning, and the media.
     These are among the findings of a new study -- Throwing a Better Party:
 Local Mobilizing Institutions and the Youth Vote -- which was conducted by the
 Allegheny College Center for Political Participation and the Ray C. Bliss
 Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron. The report
 commissioned by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and
 Engagement (CIRCLE). The 805 party chairs surveyed for the study represent
 counties containing 87 percent of the nation's population.
     Roughly nine-in-ten (88 percent) party leaders say youth political
 engagement is a serious problem.  A similar portion (93 percent) feel local
 parties can make a big difference in getting young people involved in
 politics. But only 41 percent are doing anything specifically to attract young
 voters.
     "There is both disturbing and optimistic news in this report," said Dr.
 Daniel M. Shea, Director of the Allegheny College Center for Political
 Participation. "They have the potential to play a major role in rejuvenating
 participation in America. But many local parties find youth mobilization
 difficult, so they are ignoring this group.  Traditional party activities
 aren't working for young people, but the party organizations that are trying
 novel programs, such as unique social activities, interactive web sites, and
 peer-to-peer outreach, are having much better success."
     Where do party leaders place the blame for the disengagement of young
 people?
 
     -- 71 percent do not think high schools do a lot to prepare young people
        for citizenship,
     -- 70 percent think negative campaigning turns off young voters, and
     -- 65 percent think that the media has done much to turn young people away
        from politics.
 
     The results were similar for Democrats and Republicans, with the exception
 that Democratic Party leaders were a bit more likely to blame candidates, and
 a bit less likely to blame high school instruction. The high cost of campaigns
 was not seen as a significant cause of youth disengagement.
     "A key indicator of how far off the radar screen young people are is that
 few party chairs see them as an important demographic for the 'long-term
 success of their party,'" said Dr. John C. Green, Director of the Ray C. Bliss
 Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron. "By comparison,
 senior citizens were mentioned nearly three times as often as the most
 important group over the long term. Winning the current election is clearly
 overwhelming any focus on developing a long-term, broad-based following."
     Only 8 percent of the party chairs identified young people as the most
 important demographic for the "long-term success of their party," compared to
 21 percent who named senior citizens. Only 12 percent listed young people
 second, and 18 percent listed them third.
     Among the 41 percent of party leaders that claim to have developed
 specific get-out-the-vote programs for young voters, the vast majority of
 programs they cited as examples might be dubbed "modest" and "traditional." A
 common example of a response given was "some people in our party have spoken
 at area schools." Only a handful mentioned programs that might be considered
 significant.
     "The political parties clearly must play a bigger role if we're going to
 reverse the trend of increasing youth disengagement in the electoral process,"
 said William A. Galston, the Director of CIRCLE.  "The good news is that party
 leaders on the front lines recognize that this is a major problem and that
 they can do something about it.  The bad news is they aren't making the effort
 for young people and the future of our democracy."
     This unique telephone survey covered a random sample of 805 Democratic and
 Republican county party chairs from the 1,000 most populous counties-together
 accounting for 87 percent of the adult population. Doctors Shea and Green
 conducted the research in October 2003 to investigate the vibrancy of local
 political parties. Specifically, this study sought to determine how local
 parties are connecting with young voters -- what is working, and what is not
 working. The University of Akron Center for Policy Studies was contracted to
 conduct the poll. The report is available online
 at www.allegheny.edu/mobilizing.pdf and www.civicyouth.org .
 
 

SOURCE Allegheny College

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