our study of state policies for civic engagement

Just published: “Policy Effects on Informed Political Engagement” by Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg and me. It is in American Behavioral Scientist and available online. (A print copy is coming soon.)


For this article, we tested whether and to what extent young people’s rates of informed voting are influenced by laws and policies that regulate the electoral system and by civic education policies. Education policies and state voting laws vary widely and are in rapid flux; their impact is important to understand. Immediately after the 2012 election, a sample of 4,483 youth was surveyed that included at least 75 respondents in each of the 50 states and national oversamples of African Americans and Latinos. Their experiences with civic education and support from their families predicted their informed political participation as young adults, but variations in the existing state policies did not matter. This may suggest that the kinds of policies that states have enacted—such as allowing early voting or requiring one course on government in high school—are not helpful but policies that promote extracurricular participation and discussion of current issues in schools could be much more effective.