As Joseph Kahne and Cathy Cohen’s inspired piece “Political Pioneers or Bed Texters?” points out, there is an awfully large perception gap of Millennials in the eyes of the media. Did we jumpstart the Arab Spring or are we “stay-at-home sons” forcing our parents to pick up the tab of our poor decisions? Do we exemplify the cast of Jersey Shore or are we on pace to be the most educated generation in American history? My take: a little bit of both.
According to the new survey, “Participatory Politics: New Media and Youth Political Action,” I’m right. Participatory politics are a medley of Internet-fostered movements. Examples include creating online political groups, writing and sharing a blog surrounding a political issue, posting a link to a funny political video, and surprisingly (at least to me) poetry slams.
Millennials are no longer tied down to elitist interest groups in Washington or traditional institutions when expressing their political views. Simply put, participatory politics are peer based, interactive, increasingly original and creative, less expensive, and non-hierarchical. Kahne and Cohen’s survey sought out to clarify the use of social media in political engagement. Their discoveries reaffirmed and redefined several stereotypes about Millennials surrounding the amount of time youth use social media and its relation to political involvement and the racial divide in “organized” and Internet-based participatory politics.
The survey’s results point out “how often youth interact with friends on sites such as Facebook was unrelated to levels of political activity.” Yet, it’s interesting to find that those who “use the Internet and social media…to pursue interests in hobbies, sports, entertainment and gaming were five times as likely to engage in participatory politics” as those who didn’t use the Internet to pursue those interests.
That’s not to say you should be spending all your time on the Internet but you’re more likely to be politically informed if you spend some of your time on the web doing something worthwhile. The definition of “worthwhile” is different for all of us; let’s just hope that most Millennials consider “participatory politics”–or deciding the next president and the future of this country–worthy of our time.
The surveyors also touched upon a crucial issue in America today that has influenced politics for centuries: race. The results reveal that Millennials are jumping over the racial divide in politics through social media. “Political Pioneers or Bed Texters?” cites a 2008 survey that put 26 percentage points between the highest youth voter turnout rate (black youth at 56%) and the lowest rate (Latino youth at 30%). Looking at the statistics between various races surrounding participatory politics, there’s only a 7 point difference between white youth (43%) and Asian youth (36%).
According to an article at Colorlines.com, the 2010 census showed the nation that America is just a “generation and a half away from a being a majority non-white nation.” The increased political action of current minorities reflects the new reality: a multi-racial society that includes minorities because it must. 39.7% of 18 to 25 year olds are Latino, Asian or African American, as stated in the 2010 census. They must begin participating in politics or risk leaving a large chunk of the United States underrepresented.
The media has often pigeon-holed Millennials into being “post-racial” due to President Barack Obama’s election when, in reality, many youth acknowledge the challenges that racism holds for the future. Millennials are not “post-racial;” most seem to be “pro-multi” or “post-racist.”
The race issues we struggle with today are less associated with violence and blatant acts of racism but more with class system problems that prevent the success of those who live with poverty due to their race. In other words, race issues are intertwined with society to an extent so far that many in power choose to ignore them. Perhaps the continued increase in political action among minorities can prevent some of this corruption in the political realm.
Social media falls somewhere in between useless and extremely helpful in terms of political action among Millennials. While some choose to use the Internet solely for entertainment, sports, gaming, and hobbies, others branch out and post blogs about their political views or share a funny video about a politician. Politics no longer have to be “organized” or “institutional.” Millennials have found that through Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites, they can find an outlet for opinions that don’t fit the model. Let’s keep that trend moving in the right direction: upward.
Haley Samsel is a Featured Blogger for Mobilize.org’s The Millennial Report. She is a high school freshman in Plano, Texas where she is involved with Partner’s PE, a program that allows students to help special needs kids to earn their PE credit while making friends and gaining confidence in themselves.
Haley Samsel is a Featured Blogger for Mobilize.org’s The Millennial Report. She is a high school sophomore who lives in Plano, Texas, which gives her a pretty unique view (in her opinion) on politics and Millennial issues. Outside of the Millennial Report, Haley enjoys playing basketball, reading biographies and watching cooking competition shows, among other things.