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The Next Generation of Voters


High school students are our next generation of voters. In the coming years, they are going to help shape public policy, but their views are often overlooked because most of them are currently not eligible to vote. To address this lack of information, in December ACT surveyed a sample of students who took the ACT® test, asking them about their engagement with and concerns after the 2016 presidential election.

A new ACT issue brief, The Next Generation of Voters: A Sample of Student Attitudes after the 2016 Presidential Election, summarizes the findings.

We found that most students were engaged with the election: 67 percent reported following the news coverage very or fairly closely. However, their most popular news source was social media (72 percent), suggesting that work to help students identify “fake news" is critically important.

After the election, the majority of students reported feeling more concerned about a number of topics including race relations (72 percent) and college affordability (62 percent); while half reported feeling more concerned about getting a job. Less than 13 percent of students reported feeling less concerned about any of the topics after the election. Further, only about half (49 percent) of the students reported that discussions in their classroom about the election were always or almost always respectful.

The high levels of concern, particularly related to equity issues, indicates that educators and parents need to find a way to talk with their students about current issues and teach students how to engage in these discussions in a productive manner that does not interfere with student learning. The survey also suggests that civics and media education are needed to help students gather the information that is shaping their opinions.

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