young people and rebuilding after Katrina

According to the latest AP-Ipsos poll, “About half the under-30 poll respondents — 52 percent — said they were confident federal money for the Gulf Coast recovery was being spent wisely. The number was much lower for respondents of all age groups — only 33 percent.”

We have three possible explanations for this gap, which are all quoted in an article by Ryan Pearson for AP’s youth-oriented wire service, ASAP news. First, the youngest generation has consistently been less critical of government than older generations. More of them agree than disagree that the federal government usually acts in the genuine interests of the public. (However, a plurality won’t answer the question at all because they are undecided). Second, younger people are often less well informed about current events, so perhaps they know less about the mismanagement after Katrina that has been heavily reported in the press. Third, they may be in the middle of a learning process. In the ASAP story, Abby Kiesa mentions CIRCLE’s focus groups on Katrina. Abby heard mostly questions rather than firm opinions. Youth wanted to know what was happening after Katrina, why we weren’t better prepared, and who was a credible source. As Public Agenda and its co-founder Dan Yankelovich argue, we often make a mistake when we confuse settled opinions with developing views–although they can look alike in a standard survey.