That's right, those wacky young people are not the disconnected, self-absorbed, knowledge-deprived, pop culture-driven types we always imagined, at least not according to a study reportedly conducted by a Tufts University class. The formal pdf version of the report is here.
I'm not exactly sure why the authors found it interesting to compare college and non-college youth. Sure, it controls for age, but 18-to-24 year olds who did and did not attend college? I would expect them to differ. A lot. And they do. Except when they don't.
Well, college-attending young people do better on questions about public affairs (somewhat better, but not a hell of a lot better) but they score about the same on those all-important questions on who won American Idol or Dancing with the Stars. For example, while 65 percent of college youth could name at least one of their U.S. senators, only 51 percent of non-college youth could manage this. About 13 percent of college youth knew the name of the winner of American Idol. About 15 percent of non-college youth did. The numbers on pop culture questions are basically the same given the margin of error involved. The best we can say is that college youth are a bit more engaged and knowledgeable but they are about the same on keeping up with pop culture.
The study raises some interesting questions, more than it answers, but is definitely worth a read if you're interested in what people know or political knowledge.