teenagers talk politics

(Written in Syracuse, NY:) ABC News/Weekly Reader recently polled Americans between the ages of 12 and 17 about their political views. This is from the ABCNews.com report:

“First, [the poll] finds less political discussion than you might expect: Fewer than half of teens, 47 percent, say they’ve talked about politics and the 2004 election with their parents. Hardly more, 54 percent of teens, have covered it in class at school.”

(By the way, if 47 percent of high schoolers really discussed politics, that is a higher rate than has ever been found among incoming college freshmen, going back to 1967. However, I don’t think that discussion is really more common this year than ever before; I just think this poll question generated a lot of affirmative answers.)

The ABC report continues:

Discussing politics “makes a big difference. Among kids who’ve discussed the election with their parents, more than three-quarters are interested in it, and even more ? nine in 10 ? plan on voting all or most of the time when they’re old enough. Kids who haven’t discussed the election with their parents are much less interested in it (46 percent) and less likely to plan to vote. Having class discussions about politics boosts interest and anticipated participation in elections as well ? but the effect is not quite as great as having discussed it at home.”

We wouldn’t claim, on the basis of this poll, that discussion “boosts” interest. Perhaps those who are already interested in politics are the ones who end up in classes where elections are discussed. However, other studies have shown that discussion of politics does increase political interest; this poll lends that hypothesis some additional support.