Running from Office: Why Young Americans Are Turned off to Politics
by Jennifer L. Lawless and Richard L. Fox
HQ 799.9 .P6 L38 2015
“The past two decades in Washington, D.C., have showcased a politics dominated by intense partisanship, prolonged stalemates, and a seemingly endless stream of scandals.
For today’s teenagers and young adults, the mean-spirited, dysfunctional political system that has come to characterize American politics has eroded any sense that politicians or government have the ability to do good or effect positive change. Worse, these circumstances have turned young people off to the idea of ever running for office. With more than 500,000 elected positions in the United States, what will happen when this generation is expected to take the reins of political power?
Through an original, national survey of more than 4,000 high school and college students, as well as more than 100 in-depth interviews, Lawless and Fox examine young people’s political ambition – or lack of it. They find that young Americans feel completely alienated from contemporary politics, and the overwhelming majority view politicians as dishonest, selfish, and disinterested in helping their constituents. Young Americans look disdainfully upon the prospects of growing up to be a mayor, governor, senator, or even president of the United States. Running from Office paints a political profile of the next generation that should sound alarm bells about the long-term, deeply embedded damage contemporary politics has wrought on U.S. democracy and its youngest citizens.
As disheartening as their conclusions sound, Lawless and Fox end with practical suggestions for how new technologies, national service programs, and well-strategized public service campaigns could generate political ambition in young people. Today’s high school and college students care deeply about improving their communities and enacting change in the world. It’s not too late to ensure that they view running for office as an effective way to do so.”
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