AmeriCorps and Voting

Some conservative critics have argued that AmeriCorps encourages young people to take political action in favor of liberal causes or Democratic candidates. Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) once predicted it would turn into “re-education camps for young people, where young people have to go and get trained in a philosophy that the government puts forward and then they have to go work in some of these politically correct forums.”

From the left, critics have worried that the program, which promotes volunteering and has strict rules against political activity, may divert young people toward uncontroversial service and away from electoral politics.

According to a new CIRCLE fact sheet, young adults tend to become more civically engaged during their twenties, regardless of whether or not they served in AmeriCorps. The report shows that AmeriCorps has no independent effect on the chances that disengaged youth will start voting, but it substantially broadens the civic engagement of those who do vote. They also become involved in their communities in non-political ways.

Please see The Impact of AmeriCorps on Voting by Andrea K. Finlay, Human Development and Family Studies, The Pennsylvania State University; Constance Flanagan, Dept. of Interdisciplinary Studies, School of Human Ecology, University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Laura Wray-Lake, School of Behavioral and Organizational Sciences, Claremont Graduate University.

The authors used data from a nationally representative, eight-year longitudinal study of more than 3,000 people, comparing those who enrolled in AmeriCorps with those who indicated interest in the program but did not enroll.

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About Peter

Associate Dean for Research and the Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Tufts University's Tisch College of Civic Life. Concerned about civic education, civic engagement, and democratic reform in the United States and elsewhere.