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The Varying Effects of Aging on Youth Political Attitudes and Behaviour

Richard Niemi
University of Rochester
Jonathan Klingler
Richard Niemi
University of Rochester
Open Panel

Abstract

Mid- to late-adolescence through early adulthood is thought to be a time at which individuals establish many of the habits, orientations, and feelings that will guide them throughout their lives. Despite the frequent emphasis on adolescence/early adulthood, relatively little is known about the changes that characterize this time period. After reviewing the limited previous findings, we take advantage of two nationwide surveys from 2006 and 2007 that, when combined, give us 2000 respondents between the ages of 18 and 24. Our analysis suggests that, while there are few differences between groups with respect to political participation, community involvement declines from the age of 18 to 24, and that decline is greater among college students than non- students. Political trust and efficacy also decline, with students declining more than nonstudents in both areas. Certain changes occur as well in attitudes about participation and about individual versus societal responsibilities. We conclude that late adolescence through early adulthood may be a time of meaningful, patterned change in people’s attitudes and behavior. There is much to be learned by greater attention to this part of the adult life-span.