IOP Survey: Students More Interested in Community than Politics

Contact: Gordon Li
Phone: 617-496-4009
Contact Organization: Institute of Politics
Date: November 22, 2002

Cambridge, MA -- College students are generous with their time and most have recently volunteered in their community, according to a new survey of college students nationwide conducted by the Kennedy School of Government's Institute of Politics. Although undergraduates are committed to their neighborhoods, only one-third said they were registered to vote and would definitely do so and a smaller percentage participate in political activities.
"Contrary to popular belief, college students are engaged in their community and tuned into current events," said Dan Glickman, Director of the Institute of Politics and a former US Cabinet Secretary and member of Congress. "But it is little wonder that they feel disengaged from politics when the campaigns focus most of their attention on elderly voters, Social Security and prescription drugs. Politicians need to connect with younger people or risk a diminished representative government and a distorted pool of voters."
Most students are connected to their communities but disengaged in politics
Sixty-one percent of college students performed community service in the last year. Three-quarters of this group volunteer once a month or more frequently.
This "habit" of volunteerism was instilled in high school. Eighty percent of college students performed direct service while in high school and 89% of recent volunteers did so in secondary school.
Students believe volunteerism is an effective form of public service to solve problems on both the local and national level.
Only 14% of students have participated in a government, political, or issues-related organization, and 9% have volunteered on a political campaign.
Forty-two percent of undergraduates follow the news on a daily basis and 71% do so more than once per week.
Current Events - Iraq and September 11
Sixty-nine percent of students believe that the US should act with the support of allies if UN inspections fail. Only 28% believe the US should take no military action against Iraq.
Two-thirds of respondents, however, oppose the reinstatement of a military draft. Forty-four percent said, if drafted, they would seek an alternative to service.
More than two-thirds of students (69%) said they are a great deal or somewhat concerned about the possibility of another major terrorist attack in the US.
Students almost universally (90%) consider themselves patriotic. Eighty-two percent said the 9-11 attacks affected their perspective on politics and national issues.
The full report is available online at: http://www.iop.harvard.edu/2002survey.pdf
The survey data is available online at: http://www.iop.harvard.edu/toplines.pdf
The IOP survey of 1,200 undergraduates across the country was conducted between October 18-27, 2002 and carries a margin of error of +/-2.8% at the 95% confidence level.
This poll is part of an annual study of college students' attitudes toward public service and government. It is designed and analyzed by a group of Harvard College undergraduates. John DellaVolpe, a partner in the opinion research firm Schneider / DellaVolpe / Schulman, assisted the group and executed the telephone surveys.
The Institute of Politics was established in 1966 with an endowment from the John F. Kennedy Library Corporation to inspire undergraduate students to enter careers in politics and public service, and to promote greater understanding and cooperation between the academic community and the political world.

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