Student Scholar Symposium Abstracts and Posters

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 5-14-2015

Faculty Advisor(s)

Ann Gordon


Understanding the ways youth engage in politics is vital to the preservation of democracy, as they will eventually be its administrators. Young Americans are disconnecting from formal political participation; election turnout is weak and membership in political parties and organizations is declining. However, the turn away from traditional, institutional political participation has been accompanied by the rise of an alternative political tool: new media. Social networks, blogs, and other virtual communities now offer alternative, informal platforms through which youth have found a political voice. Research has largely been divided into examinations of waning institutional engagement and, separately, the rise of informal, participatory involvement. Although the former may be corroding democracy, the latter may be transforming it. This fracture limits broader analysis of the trends of youth participation. To better understand the shift away from formal participation, this investigation will first assess youth confidence in the political system. It will use the 2012 American National Election Study data to measure internal and external efficacy, as well as satisfaction with the political system. It will then evaluate institutional engagement, measuring political party membership, campaign contributions, and petition signing, for example. Moreover, it will measure informal, or participatory, forms of engagement by analyzing youth access, circulation, and production of political content through new media. By comparing such practices, this analysis will examine whether participatory engagement acts as a substitute or a supplement to institutional involvement. Most importantly, it will consider the value of participatory engagement and its role in the democratic system.


Presented at the Spring 2015 Student Research Day at Chapman University.