Friday, August 14, 2009

Youth, Participation, and Knowledge

There was greater political participation by young people in the 2008 presidential election but that did not necessarily translate into greater political knowledge, according to a news study (press release here).

First, some caveats. This study was done by graduate students. It was presented at the recent AEJMC convention (I'm a member). So I can't say a lot about the method, because I skipped this year's convention in Boston. Caveats aside, we can either read the press release or wait until the papers themselves become available online. It's basically a study of undergraduates -- who as we all know barely qualify as real people. And there's this little bit of info near the end of the release: "the study has limitations, particularly since the students were not selected from a random sample." Yup. Okay for a conference paper, harder to sell as a journal article.

Here's an interesting quote from the press release:
"We found that the students were really politically active," York said. "They talked about the campaigns with their friends, and a lot of people got online on a social networking site to talk about the campaigns. Not many wrote blogs, but a considerable amount kept up with blogs."
This gets at the difference in what is participation. We'd normally define it as attending rallies, contributing money, putting a bumpersticker on your car, that sort of traditional thing, but there is movement to include social networking, Internet-based activities as participation.

"The measure for political knowledge was similar to a current events quiz with questions like the name of the U.S. secretary of defense," according to the release. That's okay too, though as I've discussed many times before in previous blogs, it's just one form of political knowledge.

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