A recent study released by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program found that members of the Class of 2019 are more likely than ever to be politically active, displaying historically high results in areas like public demonstrations and involvement in the electoral process.
The study, conducted between March and October 2015, surveyed 141,189 full-time college freshmen, 8.5% of whom said they had a “very good chance” of participating in student demonstration. This represents a 2.9% growth from 2014.
Adam Kimelman, a first year in the College Republicans, believes this increase in political participation is due to a changing perception in the political climate.
“I think especially in a political climate that is so built on anger, many first-year college students are becoming angrier at our political system,” says Kimelman. “As they move from high school to college, I think they realize how the political system is being rigged against their generation.”
First year Sam Finkel references the availability of technology as a possible facilitator of youth political engagement.
“We grew up at the dawn of the digital revolution. As political candidates have started to take advantage of social media, information about their campaigns starts to pop up more and more,” says Finkel, a University Democrats Executive Board member.
According to Finkel, this might explain Bernie Sanders’ popularity among young voters. Sanders, who has garnered the support of over 80% of people aged 18-29, has managed to attract a good portion of young voters due to his digital presence.
“I mean, the guy’s everywhere”, says Finkel of Sanders’ social media ubiquity. “These college freshmen could be more inclined to vote nowadays simply because the campaigns are more pervasive.”
The survey also showed an increased liberalization of college freshmen, with many of them leaning left on several social issues. 81% endorsed same-sex marriage while 64% supported the legal status of abortion- good news for Democrats like Sanders who may be relying on youth voter turnout in the upcoming election.
Regardless of political affiliation, both Kimelman and Finkel stress the importance of continuing to encourage youth political activism.
“It’s important for Americans to exercise their rights because there are people in the world whose governments protect fewer rights than our own,” says Finkel.
“The decisions being made right now and during the next presidency are going to have a very large impact on current college students’ post-college life,” adds Kimelman. “Even if they aren’t interested in a field directly related to politics, politics will almost certainly have a role in what they’re doing.”