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
"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
-- 71 percent do not think high schools do a lot to prepare young people
-- 70 percent think negative campaigning turns off young voters, and
-- 65 percent think that the media has done much to turn young people away
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
"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