NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Young Distance Themselves From Politics

June 16, 1999

Young people are increasingly steering clear of politics or at least paying less attention to political news, according to surveys. A number of them are opting, instead, for community service roles.

  • In 1972, the first presidential election year after the voting age was lowered to 18 from 21, some 42 percent of persons age 18 to 24 cast ballots -- but by 1996 fewer than 30 percent voted.
  • At the same time, participation by voting-age adults as a whole slipped from 55 percent to 49 percent, according to the Center for the Study of the American Electorate.
  • In a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, 31 percent of persons 18 to 29 reported having read a newspaper the day before -- half as many as in 1965.
  • A recent survey conducted by Democratic pollster Peter Hart for Public Allies, a national-service group, revealed that 68 percent of young adults have been involved in activities to help their communities during the past three years.

The lack of interest in politics is a problem for politicians who have traditionally relied on young volunteers to canvass neighborhoods and stuff envelopes. According to exit polls, voter under age 30 made up 17 percent of the 1996 electorate.

Source: Elizabeth Crowley, "More Young People Turn Away From Politics and Concentrate Instead on Community Service," Wall Street Journal, June 16, 1999.


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