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Factors of engagement

Many Americans engage in political activity on a regular basis. A survey conducted in 2008 revealed that approximately two-thirds of American adults had participated in some type of political action in the past year. These activities included largely non-personal activities that did not require a great deal of interaction with others, such as signing petitions, contacting elected representatives, or contributing money to campaigns.

Aaron Smith et al., 1 September 2009. “The Current State of Civic Engagement in America,” http://www.pewinternet.org/2009/09/01/the-current-state-of-civic-engagement-in-america/.

Americans aged 18–29 were less likely to become involved in traditional forms of political activity than older Americans. A 2015 poll of more than three thousand young adults by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics revealed that only 22 percent claimed to be politically engaged, and fewer than 10 percent said that they belonged to any type of political organization or had volunteered for a political campaign. Only slightly more said that they had gone to political rallies.

Harvard Institute of Politics, “Survey of Young Americans’ Attitudes toward Politics and Public Service,” Survey, October 30, 2015–November 9, 2015. http://www.iop.harvard.edu/sites/default/files_new/pictures/151208_Harvard_IOP_Fall_2015_Topline.pdf.
However, although Americans under age thirty are less likely than older Americans to engage in traditional types of political participation, many remain engaged in activities on behalf of their communities. One-third reported that they had voluntarily engaged in some form of community service in the past year.
Keller, “Young Americans are Opting Out.”

Why are younger Americans less likely to become involved in traditional political organizations? One answer may be that as American politics become more partisan in nature, young people turn away. Committed partisanship    , which is the tendency to identify with and to support (often blindly) a particular political party, alienates some Americans who feel that elected representatives should vote in support of the nation’s best interests instead of voting in the way their party wishes them to. When elected officials ignore all factors other than their party’s position on a particular issue, some voters become disheartened while others may become polarized. However, a recent study reveals that it is a distrust of the opposing party and not an ideological commitment to their own party that is at the heart of most partisanship among voters.

Marc Hetherington and Thomas Rudolph, “Why Don’t Americans Trust the Government?” The Washington Post , 30 January 2014.

Young Americans are particularly likely to be put off by partisan politics. More Americans under the age of thirty now identify themselves as Independents instead of Democrats or Republicans ( [link] ). Instead of identifying with a particular political party, young Americans are increasingly concerned about specific issues, such as same-sex marriage.

Keller, “Young Americans are Opting Out.”
People whose votes are determined based on single issues are unlikely to vote according to party affiliation.

Questions & Answers

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Source:  OpenStax, American government. OpenStax CNX. Dec 05, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11995/1.15
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