Youth and Political Participation: A Reference Handbook

Youth and Political Participation: A Reference Handbook

Youth and Political Participation: A Reference Handbook

Youth and Political Participation: A Reference Handbook


This comprehensive reference examines the history and importance of youth participation in politics, suggests reasons for their disengagement, and discusses efforts to increase the interest of young voters in the political process- a process in which they could be a controlling factor.

• Biographical sketches of individuals who have played key roles in encouraging political participation among young people and of young people who are, or were, especially active in politics

• A chronology of youth political participation in the United States from the Revolutionary War to the present

• A directory of organizations that have engaged in the study of youth political participation or that encourage such participation


Periodically throughout U.S. history, particularly during and immediately following armed conflict, debates have occurred about the appropriate minimum voting age. Many asserted that if people are old enough to be required to risk life and limb during military service, they also should have the right to participate in elections to select those officials who will have the authority to make such life and death decisions. Although free and fair elections often are considered the most crucial ingredient in a democratic system, democracy involves much more than periodically casting a ballot, for there are many ways in which people can participate in politics. They can take part in political discussion, engage in collective efforts to improve the local community, advocate or oppose existing or proposed policies, and take part in election campaigns.

In recent years, especially since ratification in 1971 of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment that established the minimum voting age at 18, political activists and scholars have focused a great deal of attention on investigating the political attitudes and behavior of young people (particularly those aged 18 to 30, the age group with the lowest level of political engagement), often with the goal of increasing political participation levels among those in this age cohort. For the Democratic and Republican parties, attracting young committed adherents can potentially pay large dividends for future political success. And for those concerned about the preservation of democratic values and the institutions of democratic government, the engagement of young people in politics is of critical importance. This book deals with these concerns and with the strategies, many of them the result of social science research, that have been suggested for increasing political participation among the younger population.

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