Answering the question that has been circulating lately:
As Women's March organizers prepare for another round of events on Jan. 20 and 21, research shows that few young people share Hahn's excitement for political activism and public protests. Americans ages 15 to 24 are still figuring out their preferred approach to politics, according to the PRRI/MTV 2017 National Youth Survey, released this week.
"A majority of young people describe recent protests and marches negatively, as 'pointless' (16 percent), 'counterproductive' (16 percent), 'divisive' (12 percent), or 'violent' (11 percent.) Only about one-third ascribe positive value to them, saying they are 'inspiring' (16 percent), 'powerful' (16 percent), or 'effective' (4 percent)," the survey reported.
Some of these findings are not really surprising. As much as I hate to use the term "woke," that transformation did not really happen to me until I was in my forties. I may have voted regularly since my late teens, but my knowledge of what I was voting for (or against) was pretty thin, to say the least. At our County Party meeting last night, aside from a couple of small children, the youngest people there were in their thirties, and they were a distinct minority. But before we launch into a "What are we doing wrong?" exercise, it may be them and not us:
In general, Americans between the ages of 15 and 24 are struggling to find their voice when it comes to politics, according to the survey. Few have ventured out to in-person political events and many worry about everything they have yet to learn.
Only around one in five Americans ages 15 to 24 have attended a public rally or contacted an elected official, and nearly half (48 percent) say they choose not to get involved in campaigns or causes because they don't know enough about the issues, researchers noted.
The new survey highlights a number of factors holding young people back. Beyond worrying about what they do and don't know, Americans ages 15 to 24 are concerned about whether they can make a difference and about facing criticism. Around one in four say there aren't any issues or causes they really care about.
Young women are particularly sensitive to misunderstandings and criticism, although they are still more politically active than young males. "Twenty-nine percent say avoiding criticism is a reason to abstain (from political engagement), while only 16 percent of young men say the same, the survey reported.
"They feel constrained by the belief they don't have the right information to be active," Cox said.
Okay, that last part may be (probably is) one area where we are doing something wrong. From what little youth engagement I have seen (be they boys or girls), older activists have a tendency to lecture, to demonstrate to everybody in attendance just how "woke" they are. I am guilty of this, maybe more than the average progressive. So, when a young person finally does sum up the courage to voice his or her opinion, there are usually five or six "Elders" just itching to correct them. Even if they're not wrong. That young person may be on the ball, but if they failed to mention even one marginal aspect of the situation? Well. They need to be "advised" of what they are lacking.
We need to know when to shut up and listen. It's not easy to do, because political activism magnetically draws a whole lot of Alpha personalities. It's a tough crowd. But if we genuinely do want to engage more with the 16-30 demographic, that's going to require compromise, and not a small amount of humility.