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Youth political participation in the United States

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Trends in Youth Political Participation.
  3. Recent Efforts to Boost Youthful Voter Participation.
  4. Theories of Voter Participation.
  5. Determining Why People Vote.
  6. Determining Why People Do Not Vote.
  7. Youth Political Participation.
  8. Putnam's Theory.
  9. Application of Putnam's Theory.
  10. Social Capital?A Closer Look.
  11. Social Disenfranchisement of America's Youth.
  12. Synthesis of the Research.
  13. Conclusion/Recommendations.

Statistical analysis of voting trends in the United States show that after reaching stable levels in 1950, voter participation has decreased significantly throughout the last half of the twentieth century. This trend has been especially noted among youthful voters between the ages of 18 and 34. The realization that so many young people are failing to participate in the political process is a trend that has alarmed many political leaders and analysts. The issue has become so pervasive that many scholars are now attempting to delineate the specific problems that are impeding the development of youth political participation.At the present time, youth political participation in the United States remains historically low. Even in the 2004 Presidential election when youth political participation was supposed to reach an all time high, the number of voters between the ages of 18 and 34 that showed up at the polls only increased 1.6 percent over the 2000 election (Brown, 2005). Although this gain does indeed represent an improvement, it demonstrates the consistent problems that political activists have had when it comes to attracting youthful voters. Given the importance of the voting process to the maintenance of democracy, there is a clear impetus to understand why youth political participation remains consistently low.With the realization that youth political participation is such a critical issue for the development of social and political discourse, this investigation seeks to provide a broad overview of the situation and the specific theories that scholars have offered with respect to the issue.

[...] When framed in this context, it becomes evident that any theory that has been developed to understand youth political participation invariably fails because it cannot fully quantify the ubiquitous variable that prevents youth political participation. Putnam's theory of generational differences promulgated by declines overall in social capital provides the essential explication for understanding why so many you can choose not to participate in the political process. The generational theory does not attempt to ascribe a specific position or attitude to youthful voters. [...]


[...] While this theory of voter participation appears to be quite apt when examining the historical development of voting rights in the United States, the reality of this situation is that it does not provide a clear method for understanding voter participation in the late twentieth century. While one could effectively argue that social stratification in the late twentieth century still remained a pervasive issue for the development of various demographic populations, for the most part, barriers preventing political participation in the past have been effectively removed allowing all individuals regardless of race or gender to participate in the political process. [...]


[...] Youth Political Participation Arguably, the theories that have been advanced with respect to overall decline in voter participation rates in the last five decades demonstrate that there are a myriad of potential explications for this process. While Crotty's (1991) theory attempts to focus on general trends in nonvoter participation, his explication ends up clearly demonstrating the problems that exist in terms of youthful political participation. With the realization that youthful political participation is a critical issue, one that notably impacts the development politics in the United States, it is important to now consider what has been written about why individuals between the ages of 18 and 34 consistently fail to actively participate in this process. [...]

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