Running from Office: Why Young Americans are Turned Off to Politics

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The research, though, is even more eye-opening when these attitudes are connected to other behaviors. Politics has a tiny part to play in the daily lives of younger Americans. Interestingly, these findings hold for the most part across racial and gender lines. While truly damning, there are some hopeful dimensions of the research. Lawless and Fox find that younger Americans who:. High schools and colleges can require more students to take courses in government and can stimulate debates about politics with special events and speakers, and parents can lead discussions of current events.

Jennifer Lawless

All of this would likely encourage more students to consider running for office, but many will be frustrated by the aspects of politics that drive all Americans away. Less corruption, less money in politics and less dysfunction may be merely the wishful thinking of commencement speakers, but each should be a part of a serious conversation about how to bring younger Americans back into the political fold. View the discussion thread. Skip to main content. What do young Americans think about politics?

Consider: Just 11 percent of respondents said that they had thought about running office "many times" while 61 percent said they "never" considered it. Asked if various jobs paid the same, just 13 percent of respondents said they would want to be a member of Congress, versus 37 percent who chose business executive and 27 percent school principal; only 19 percent indicated that a future goal was to become a political leader.

Just 9 percent of respondents said that their parents would want them to pursue a job as a member of Congress, compared to around 50 percent for owning a business.

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Just over a quarter 27 percent of high-school students in the study indicated that they had taken a government or political science class. A large majority 65 percent of high-school students indicated that their classmates had little or no interest in politics; and less than a fifth 17 percent of younger Americans discussed politics with their friends.

Through an original, national survey of more than 4, high school and college students, as well as more than in-depth interviews, Jennifer L.

Running from Office: Why Young Americans Are Turned Off to Politics – Westminster Town Hall Forum

Lawless and Richard L. Fox find that young Americans feel completely alienated from contemporary politics and express little ambition or aspiration to run for office in the future.


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The overwhelming majority see nothing particularly noble about those currently in office, viewing most as dishonest, self-interested, and disinterested in helping their constituents. These young people want to improve their communities and enact change in the world; but they don't think politics is the way to achieve these goals. In fact, they look disdainfully upon the prospects of growing up to be a mayor, governor, senator, or even president of the United States.


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Running from Office explores young people's opinions about contemporary politics and their political ambition or lack of it. The book paints a political profile of the next generation that should sound alarm bells about the long-term, deeply embedded damage contemporary politics has wrought on U. As disheartening as their conclusions sound, Lawless and Fox end with practical suggestions for how new technologies, national service programs, and well-strategized public service campaigns could generate political ambition in young people.

Today's high school and college students care deeply about improving the future, and it's not too late to ensure that they view running for office as an effective way to do so. Not a Politician. Politics in Contemporary American Families.