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ERIC Number: ED494037
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2006-May
Pages: 20
Abstractor: ERIC
College Students and Politics: A Literature Review. CIRCLE Working Paper 46
Longo, Nicholas V.; Meyer, Ross P.
Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), University of Maryland
In this working paper, the authors review the literature on college students' political attitudes and behaviors. It is hoped that this review will help to refine research questions and ultimately lead to a larger follow-up research study on college student political engagement. The literature review was based on the following three questions: (1) How do college students understand, define, and view politics, their political engagement, and the work of democracy? (2) Are college students politically engaged? How do college students practice politics? (3) How can institutions of higher education help foster greater political participation among college students? Several emerging and often overlapping trends came out of the review. The narrative of the authors' review might be described in the following way: There have been several general studies on college students as a demographic group with data on some aspects of their political knowledge, attitudes, values, skills, and practices. Much of the research indicates that college students today are cynical about politics and apathetic when it comes to political participation. However, after years of decline, there has been a recent increase in voting, trust in government, and other forms of political participation among college students in the past few years. There has also been a "scissor effect": years of decline in political participation have coincided with a surge in volunteering and involvement in community. There are various interpretations for the rise in community service and its implications for democracy, with many contending that there is no connection between community service and political participation; community service, it seems, may simply be an "alternative to politics." At the same time, there is a strand of literature arguing that there is a need for an alternative politics led by young people, and there seems to be an emergence of this "politics that is not called politics" on college campuses. Finally, there is widespread agreement in the literature about the great political potential of this generation of college students; and that colleges and universities need to do more to educate the next generation for democracy and provide more opportunities for political participation. This review of the literature also makes clear that while much research has been done on college student political engagement in the past decade, there are many interesting and important areas for future inquiry. Ultimately, an updated understanding of the current generation of college students' views on politics requires more than a literature review; thus, the authors believe that updated research with college students could be timely, contributing an important element to the efforts for democratic revitalization: the voices of the youngest generation. [This Working Paper was produced by CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement). For CIRCLE Working Paper 45, see ED491132.]
The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE). University of Maryland, School of Public Policy, 2101 Van Munching Hall, College Park, MD 20742. Tel: 301-405-2790; Web site:
Publication Type: Information Analyses
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A