Nearly Half of Young Adults Participate Politically Online, New Survey Finds
BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Friday, June 29 2012
Nearly half of the nation's young adults in the United States receive their news at least once a week from their family and friends through social media, according to a new survey released this week from the MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics.
The survey found that 45 percent of people between the ages of 15 and 25 receive their news through Facebook and Twitter. This compares with the 49 percent who read the news at least once a week in newspapers and magazines.
This data is part of a larger survey examining the idea of what it means to be politically active for this digitally native generation. The survey defines "participatory politics" as "interactive, peer-based acts through which individuals and groups seek to exert both voice and influence on issues of public concern."
It found that just under half of the people in this age group participate in online participatory politics of some form, and that this kind of engagement is equitably distributed across the ethnic groups of whites, blacks, Latinos and Asians.
The authors of the report are Joseph Kahne, an education professor at Mills College and chair of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics and Cathy J. Cohen, a political science professor at the University of Chicago, and founder of the Black Youth Project.
The survey also found that 84 percent of the young adults and teens surveyed said that they would benefit from learning how to tell if the material that they come across online is trustworthy.
In an interview, Kahne said that he was encouraged by this finding, and that it points to an opportunity for educational institutions to incorporate digital literacy programs into their curricula.
"It's not that their rates of political participation are super-high," Kahne said of the survey's subjects. "As most people know, most people don't focus on politics most of the time except maybe during presidential elections. But certainly if we ignore these kinds of participatory activities, we're missing a lot."