CIRCLE sees climate change as the main issue driving youth political engagement

The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life recently released a report entitled “Youth Concern About Climate Change Drives Civic Engagement”.

Starting from the idea that global warming is an issue that affects more and more people around the world, the report revealed that “young people’s concern about climate change has become one of the main problems motivating both their activism and their turnout”. box.”

“Young people have fewer opportunities in terms of [political engagement] … especially with an issue like the climate where it affects the well-being of future generations, [it is important] to really give more voice and contribution to young people”, Sara Suzuki, who led the CIRCLE research teammentioned.

This makes it all the more important to examine young people’s engagement with climate change and how to address this uneven engagement.

The process of writing the report began by working with data on youth engagement across a variety of different questions and analyzing them.

“Our data comes from a CIRCLE survey — in partnership with professional polling companies — conducted,” Suzuki said. “It’s a subsample but it represents the population of young Americans in 2020. One of our questions in this survey was ‘What are your top three issues that impact who you vote for president?’ and that’s the data we were analyzing.

Alberto Medina, communication team leader at CIRCLE, explained how this data analysis focused not only on the issues that young activists consider important, but also on existing inequalities and gaps in youth engagement. According to Medina, CIRCLE obtained data from both its own poll and exit polls conducted by The Associated Press.

“We are interested in how worry about an issue like the weather, which is so prevalent, can be a pathway [into more engagement with civic life]” Alberto said Medina.

The ultimate conclusion of CIRCLE’s analysis was that young people placed a high priority on climate change when asking who they would vote for and why they wanted to be politically active. Additionally, CIRCLE analyzed who is currently engaged in climate activism and how this relates to other forms of civic engagement.

“What we’ve seen is that young people overwhelmingly see climate change as one of the top issues influencing their choice of president, and it’s an issue that’s really close to their hearts,” he said. he adds. said Suzuki. “At least 13% cited it as the number one issue. … Many young people place high importance on multiple issues, so we believe these differences are actually an opportunity to engage young people more in thinking about the intersection different problems … with climate change.

These intersections are necessary to understand the ripple effects that global warming is having on other policy issues, and CIRCLE’s findings show how this understanding has increased engagement with climate activism. The report reflects how young people in different parts of the country deal with climate change differently due to societal factors.

“A lot of it comes down to not treating young people like a monolith,” said Medina. “It may not be the same for a young person from the West or the Colorado River who experiences droughts compared to someone in another part of the country who does not have these direct experiences with the consequences of the climate change. … You can strategize to reach and involve them not based on this general idea of ​​“young people want or need this”, but on the real needs and concerns that you hear directly. »

Reports like this are often the first step to understanding and acting on disparities in engagement. Working with organizations like Action for the Climate Emergency and AP VoteCast gave editors access to detailed polling data on voter perceptions of the election and different issues. The analysis of these data on the behavior of activists is important for the perspective of engaging them politically.

“RE-reports validate what we see “in the field”” Tufts Climate Action board member Julia Silberman wrote in an email to The Daily. “They can show those in power that we care about these issues and that their (eligible) positions could be threatened if their constituents feel they are not prioritizing climate change. Also, it is always helpful to increase engagement when others see that there is a strong base to support an idea/do activist work; it’s a bandwagon effect.

However, there are still barriers to organizing young people around climate action. For Silberman, using this “bandwagon effect” can be key for activists to continue pushing for change and delivering valuable solutions.

“We understand that the climate crisis is not just going to shape our future, it is our future,” Silberman, a junior, wrote. “Psychologically, I think there is a barrier of ‘climate catastrophe’. Small victories can seem pointless in the face of corporate and political stagnation. … To support youth organizing, it is helpful for others to offer resources, validity (like a renowned professor signing an initiative) or people power!