College Students Not Engaged With Political News — Even in an Election Year

It’s a presidential election year. Chances are you’re paying attention to politics – or are at least aware of the state of the 2012 campaign.

Maybe you’re a news junkie. You seek out political news. Maybe you’re a headline grazer. Political news finds you. Maybe you thrive on political discussions. Maybe you just scroll past them on Facebook.

This never-ending election cycle gives you ample opportunities to gauge your political engagement. But how often do you actually take stock of the ways in which you follow political news and how much time you spend thinking or talking about politics?

In early March, I asked more than 200 college students to spend three days tracking just this. The assignment was timed with Super Tuesday, one of the most important dates on the election calendar.  More than 150 students agreed to have their time-stamped diary entries and responses to a subsequent survey reported in a forthcoming study. Part I of this study found that students are largely disengaged with politics and political news this election year. They typically spent less than 30 minutes over three days following political news and rarely discussed politics with their friends or family.

I co-wrote a piece in Huffington Post (with Susan Moeller, director of the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda) that gives more details about the study and its findings. Perhaps one of the most striking findings: Students commonly say they don’t see the relevance of news to their lives.


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