Young People Seek Political Discourse Online

on Thursday, Jul. 12th

To hear the full interview with Professor Joe Kahne, click on the player above.

Youth might not be going to the polls in vast numbers, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care about making change in their communities, and in the national issues that affect their lives.

According to a recent study by the MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics, youth are actively expressing their opinions on social and political issues through blogs and other social media.

This project defines participatory politics as peer-based interactions like circulating political blogs, using social networks to promote or discuss a social issue, or creating satirical political cartoons.

These actions can lead to big social impact. Some examples of that impacted mentioned in the study include the online petition to stop Bank of America’s $5.00 debit card fee, and blog posts protesting and ultimately defeating the Stop Online Piracy Act.

With regard to politics, young people respond best when given opportunities to express their political perspectives, and not necessarily when they are asked to take action in support of a candidate, according to Professor Joseph Kahne of Mills College, a primary researcher behind the study.

“Now of course, that means that the elites or the political parties and campaigns that try to shape the election and the message coming out are going to have to accept greater flexibility…a challenge for many campaigns which are used to really trying to control the message,” Kahne said.

Contrary to the traditional assumptions of a race-based digital divide, young people of color are heavily engaged in online political commentary. According to Kahne, “African-American youth are actually the most likely to engage in online forms of participatory politics.” Latino youth, on the other hand, are the least likely to participate.

Although young people are circulating information about national issues on the internet, 84 percent of youth surveyed said they would benefit from more guidance about who to trust and what’s credible online, according to Kahne.


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