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CIRCLE at 20: Striving Toward a More Equitable Democracy

December 29, 2021

In 2001, motivated by a desire to better understand and to strengthen young people's civic participation, the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement was founded at the University of Maryland's School of Public Affairs. Over the years, our work has changed: we've gone from funding research to undertaking it, we've broadened our focus to include myriad aspects of young people's civic life, and we're now based at Tufts University's Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life. But our guiding purpose remains the same: to ensure that all young people have the ability and the opportunity to engage in democracy.In 2021 we celebrated CIRCLE's 20th anniversary and produced CIRCLE at 20: Striving Toward a More Equitable Democracy. This chronicle of our work over the past two decades highlights our impact and lays out a roadmap for the work we will continue to undertake to address major challenges to equitable youth participation in civic life.

The Role of Electoral Engagement in Youth Social Movements - Study I of "Protests, Politics, and Power: Exploring the Connections Between Youth Voting and Youth Movements"

October 4, 2021

Youth activism and participation in social movements has been one of the defining features of civic life in the past several years: from the anti-gun violence protests after the Parkland school shooting in 2018, to the nationwide actions for racial justice following George Floyd's murder in 2020. Both of those were also election years in which young people achieved historic or near-historic levels of voter turnout. But what, exactly, was the relationship between young people's participation in the streets and at the ballot box?To answer that question, the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) joined a team of researchers to produce Protests, Politics, and Power: Exploring the Connections Between Youth Voting and Youth Movements. This research encompasses two studies that tackled this question with different but complementary perspectives and approaches. The Role of Electoral Engagement in Youth Social Movements is a qualitative study based on interviews and supplemental surveys with young leaders and participants in social movements. The second study, Quantifying the Effects of Protests on Voter Registration and Turnout, uses quantitative methods to study changes in electoral participation in areas where protests took place.

Quantifying the Effects of Protests on Voter Registration and Turnout - Study II of "Protests, Politics, and Power: Exploring the Connections Between Youth Voting and Youth Movements"

October 4, 2021

Youth activism and participation in social movements has been one of the defining features of civic life in the past several years: from the anti-gun violence protests after the Parkland school shooting in 2018, to the nationwide actions for racial justice following George Floyd's murder in 2020. Both of those were also election years in which young people achieved historic or near-historic levels of voter turnout. But what, exactly, was the relationship between young people's participation in the streets and at the ballot box?To answer that question, the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) joined a team of researchers to produce Protests, Politics, and Power: Exploring the Connections Between Youth Voting and Youth Movements. This research encompasses two studies that tackled this question with different but complementary perspectives and approaches. The Role of Electoral Engagement in Youth Social Movements is a qualitative study based on interviews and supplemental surveys with young leaders and participants in social movements. The second study, Quantifying the Effects of Protests on Voter Registration and Turnout, uses quantitative methods to study changes in electoral participation in areas where protests took place.

All Together Now: Collaboration and Innovation for Youth Engagement

September 18, 2013

Each new generation must become active, informed, responsible, and effective citizens. As a teacher we surveyed for this report said, civic education "is essential if we are to continue as a free democratic society. Not to educate the next generation will ensure the destruction of our American way of life as we know it."Data show that many young Americans are reasonably well informed and active. For instance, 45% of citizens between the ages of 18 and 29 voted in the 2012 election. In a national survey conducted for this Commission, 76% of people under the age of 25 who voted could correctly answer at least one (out of two) factual questions about where the presidential candidates stood on a campaign issue and state their own opinion on that issue.On the other hand, more than half of young people did not vote. And on some topics, most young people were misinformed. A majority (51.2%) of under 25-year olds believed that the federal government spends more on foreign aid than on Social Security, when in fact Social Security costs about 20 times more. (Older adults have also been found to be misinformed on similar topics.) Our research, like many other studies, finds that young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are far less likely to be informed and to vote.These shortcomings cannot be attributed to the schools alone, since families, friends, political campaigns, election officials, the mass media, social media, and community-based organizations are among the other important influences on young people. In fact, our research shows that while schools matter, civic education must be a shared responsibility.The outcomes are acceptable only when all the relevant institutions invite, support, and educate young people to engage in politics and civic life. Improving the quality and quantity of youth participation will require new collaborations; for example, state election officials and schools should work together to make voting procedures understandable and to educate students about voting rules.

Pathways into Leadership: A study of YouthBuild Graduates

June 4, 2012

The study was conducted by surveying a diverse sample of 344 YouthBuild alumni and conducting extensive interviews with 54 graduates. It demonstrates that YouthBuild has had a profound effect in developing the leadership skills and civic engagement of young people.

Getting Narrower at the Base: The American Curriculum After NCLB

December 1, 2008

Examines curriculum changes in elementary, middle, and high schools since No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was enacted, requiring regular testing in reading and math. Analyzes shifts in time allocations to four subjects, contributing factors, and implications.

An Assessment of Civic Engagement and Educational Attainment

January 2, 2007

It is well documented that individuals with higher levels of education tend to be more civically engaged. In a two-part study conducted for the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), we provide empirical evidence using 1988-2000 panel data from the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS) that civic engagement might also promote educational attainment: civically-engaged teenagers make greater scholastic progress during high school and subsequently acquire higher levels of education than their otherwise similar peers. Our first essay provides supporting empirical evidence for this relationship in general, and the second essay broadens these findings across gender and race/ethnicity. With regards to policy relevance, the primary results point to the importance of civic participation as one means to foster both social and human capital investments. The purpose of this fact sheet is to provide highlights from our two-part study.

Millennials Talk Politics: A Study of College Student Political Engagement

January 1, 2007

Examines the attitudes of the millennial generation toward politics and civic engagement, as compared to the attitudes of previous generations.

The 2006 Civic and Political Health of the Nation Report

October 1, 2006

The 2006 National Civic and Political Health Survey (CPHS) is the most up-to-date and detailed look at how young Americans are participating in politics and communities and their attitudes towards government and current issues. In this report we examine the civic engagement of young Americans and adults across 19 core measures of engagement. We also examine attitudes towards government, levels of political knowledge, partisanship, and views of elections and politics.