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Situating Millennials' Political Attitudes and Low Electoral Participation: An Analysis of Young Americans' Civic Engagement and Voter Turnout

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Millennials turn out to vote at significantly lower rates than the rest of the population, sparking commentary on their apathy and lack of contributions to American society. This thesis attempts

Millennials turn out to vote at significantly lower rates than the rest of the population, sparking commentary on their apathy and lack of contributions to American society. This thesis attempts to paint an accurate description of why these trends have persisted in the past, and finds that there are many complex reasons that serve as explanations. Many of these reasons can be explained by an analysis of Millennials' characteristics and political attitudes, which research has found includes a prioritization of achievement and Independent political ideologies. Additionally, by differentiating between civic engagement and political engagement, data and research find that Millennials choose forms of civic participation over political participation as an active choice and alternative avenue for electoral participation. Ultimately, Millennials are disillusioned with the politically polarized landscape and are unable to navigate the saturated information environment to make confident voting decisions. The rest of the thesis explores organizations, campaigns, and potential reforms that attempt to turn out Millennials. A thorough evaluation of campaigns' and nonpartisan organizations' efforts reveal the best practices for reaching Millennials, which include prioritizing substantive policy discussions, implementing grassroots and bottom-up organizational strategies, and avoiding flashiness and pandering. Another clear area for potential reform is civic education, which is currently not prioritized in the public education system. Some education reforms that would be particularly effective at reversing these negative trends include allowing for political debate within the classroom, teaching civics through more vibrant and hands-on curriculum and directly highlighting and perpetuating the importance of voting in the classroom. This thesis evaluates these and many other potential policy reforms that will encourage Millennials' political engagement as they further enter into adulthood.

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Date Created
  • 2017-05