Department of Political Science: Student Research and Publications
Political Apathy Among Colleges StudentsYoung Americans are often stereotyped as one of the most politically disconnected demographics in the country. Low rates of voter turnout help characterize this age group as indifferent and apathetic. This makes the voting behavior of young people an incredibly important topic of study for political scientists. This is especially true in the wake of the 2016 presidential election. This research focused on American citizens aged 18-24. The research aimed to determine whether political apathy among this age group has increased or decreased since 2012. The study consisted of a comparison of responses from two different surveys. Data from the first survey was drawn from a nationwide telephone poll conducted by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE). This survey was conducted shortly after the 2012 presidential election. This data was compared to an identical survey administered online to a sample of students at Augusta University following the 2016 presidential election. Differences in sample sizes limited the ability to analyze comparisons between the two surveys. However, analysis of the 2016 dataset points to a low sense of political apathy among students sampled at Augusta University.
The Effect of Political Knowledge on VotingAfter the 2012 presidential election, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) conducted a nation-wide survey of young people, ages 18-24, to learn more about their voting behavior. After the 2016 election, a replicated, shortened version of CIRCLE’s survey was used to find if politically knowledgeable young voters, ages 18-24, are more likely to vote. The sampling frame was 3,869 undergraduate students at Augusta University, ages 18-24, who were United States citizens. The sample size came to 390 based on 95% confidence level, ±5%. The sample was stratified through two strata – veteran status and race. A political knowledge index (PKI) was constructed to measure exactly how politically knowledgeable respondents were. This index was applied to both the 2012 and 2016 surveys. The answers to questions about political knowledge were graded and added together to create the index. The correct answer to each question was awarded 1.00 point and an incorrect answer was awarded 2.00 points, making the best score 3.00 and the lowest score a 6.00. According to the combined 2012 and 2016 results, young voters, ages 18-24, that are more politically knowledgeable are more likely to vote.