Friday, February 12, 2010

Abstract

Study after study shows that young people today are less civically engaged than their cohorts of decades prior.  While their voting rates in general elections has increased somewhat since 2000, young people are less likely to volunteer in campaigns, follow the news, or run for office. Studies by Mindich (2005) and Zukin et al. (2006) use surveys to directly ask young people their reasons for disengagement, and they frequently report that engagement is uninteresting or too inconvenient.  Is this really what young people believe, or are there other underlying reasons that young people only feel comfortable confessing to their peers? Because young people today increasingly use electronic communication, this study uses online forum comments from young people to detect their attitudes and perceptions towards civic engagement and participation in political processes. The word choice and contextual meaning of these comments will be linguistically analyzed in an attempt to understand the motivation, or lack thereof, young people feel towards being civically engaged. Since motivation often translates into action, the decision to participate in civic processes has significant effects on future social and political conditions.