589: Civic Involvement

A Thousand Things to Talk About
A Thousand Things to Talk About
589: Civic Involvement

What was the first civic or political issue you got involved with?

Full episode script

In 2016 in the United States, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, quote:

[…] nearly six million young people (ages 18-29) were “undermobilized”—meaning they were registered but did not vote. The problem of undermobilization is even more acute in midterm elections: 12.5 million registered youth did not vote in 2014.


It’s not just a topic of discussion in the US, however. Canada’s statistics agency, for example, wrote:

The decline in voter turnout among youth in Canada and other parts of the world has received considerable attention in recent years. It has been shown that the general decline in voter turnout is largely the result of a decrease in the voter turnout of youth.


Exercising the right to vote, although very important in a democracy, is not the only form of political participation or civic engagement. Some authors have pointed out that low voter turnout among Canadian youth should not necessarily be considered a sign of voter apathy.Note 3 In fact, the relatively low turnout may be masking many other types of engagement—both political and civic.


I even found discussions from countries ranging from Malaysia to Ireland to Brazil asking if youth should be involved in politics at all, with arguments ranging from the idea that youth aren’t mature enough to make political decisions all the way over to discussion of the idea that political decisions now will impact youth for longer, so they have a moral duty to be involved.


If you think kids should be involved in politics or not, there is very clear research indicating that even if they’re not involved, kids are impacted by politics. The Conversation, which surveys youth on a regular basis, reported in 2018, quote:

The issues the youth in our study care about most – health care, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, immigration – have been the targets of political change in the first year of the current administration. News about the election and post-election implications have been hard to escape, leaving many youth feeling just as stressed as before the election. A 16-year-old explained, “The news and social media coverage is almost unavoidable and always a constant nagging presence.” It’s not clear whether this level of stress is normal among youth during elections or political shifts. Among adults, studies have found that psychological and physiological changes occur while voting and after an election, particularly when the political conversation is focused on issues that directly impact them.


And it’s that direct impact that often can drive someone in to becoming politically active where they may not have previously done so. If you’ve never been involved in any way, have only recently gotten involved, or if political involvement is a part of everyday life for you — what got you moving in the first place?

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.