Note to Chronicle: I can haz trendlines?

Chronicle today, in front page article:

Poll: Students Less Engaged Than Thought

In four key states, a poll sponsored by CBS News, UWIRE, and The Chronicle has found, undergraduates tend to favor Barack Obama. But not many are working for him.

The core of which is this statement:

Students taking active roles in the campaign seemed to prefer tried-and-true ways of participating, the battleground poll found. Just 2 percent had posted videos about a candidate on YouTube, while 11 percent had donated to a campaign, 13 percent had helped with a voter-registration drive, and 13 percent had volunteered with a campaign.

The article had this to say about how that compared to past years:

Yep, nothing on that. Nothing either on how that compared to the general population (and if one in seven of your adult friends is volunteering, I guarantee you’re an activist).

So here’s an attempt to add context, via studies of 1996 and 2000 participation:

Much smaller percentages of students reported participating in other political activities, including political protests (3.7% of the 1996 sample and 3.6% of the 2000 sample) and political rallies (4.0% of the 1996 sample and 4.5% of the 2000 sample). Only 10.3% of the 1996 sample and 7.9% of the 2000 sample reported any involvement in a political campaign. These figures were comparable to those reported by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERD during the latter half of the 1990s (Sax et al., 1995; HERI, 2000).

So if the surveys are comparable at all in methodology and definition of participation, you would see a headline here that student participation has nearly doubled since 2000.

Nearly doubled.

That, to any reasonable commentator, would be the salient fact.

Final note, the article says this about showing support:

Only 34% said they had displayed a campaign sign or worn campaign-related apparel or a button, and just 31% said they had recruited a friend to support a campaign.

Only one out of three is visibly supporting a candidate? That’s low?

I am always suspicious of self-reported political behavior surveys. But if we believe this survey means anything, it says there is a massive wave on the way.

2 thoughts on “Note to Chronicle: I can haz trendlines?

  1. I *love* the bit about only 2% of college students posting videos to YouTube.

    I can just imagine the people writing this survey sitting around trying to figure out how to take the pulse of today’s young people. I know! Let’s ask a question about YouTube. Yeah! If young people care about something, YouTube has to be the way to measure its worth.

    I’m not saying YouTube isn’t an amazing phenomenon, but I think understanding it takes a bit more nuance than that.

    I would have been interested in a question that asked how many college students had *watched* something campaign/election-related on YouTube. I suspect the nubmer number would be much higher.

    Furthermore, isn’t the fact that 2% of college students are creating original media content about a political campaign on a video-sharing site that DIDN’T EVEN EXIST in 2004 pretty amazing! But I guess the authors didn’t see it that way. . .

  2. I know — it’s like they create a stereotype with no data, and then proceeded to debunk the stereotype. It’s similar with “fanning” — only a quarter fanned a candidate!

    Well what does that mean? If students use fanning candidates the way 40 yr olds use yard signs, then that’s a crazy high level of fanning. If it’s cultural equivalent is just saying you support a candidate, then it’s low.

    A neat study would be to use traditional measures of political engagement and then see how methods of participation map out in the various tiers of engagement across generation. Combine that with some sociology/anthropology on asking students on whether signs are a higher level of commitment than a facebook group, etc.

    *That* would be interesting.

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