Document Type

Honors Thesis

Publication Date

Spring 5-2016


This thesis investigates the different political patterns that young adults have in comparison to older generations, and certain personality or attitudinal traits that may encourage traditional participation through voting or joining a political party. Previous research in this field suggests many different factors that encourage or inhibit participation. Parental influence and declining trust in government are considered to be two of the largest indicators of whether a young adult will decide to participate in politics in a traditional way. This thesis will provide an alternative explanation to why we see lower participation in politics for young adults, by exploring the attitudes of young adults when going through the decision-making process.

Analyses of the American National Election Studies and the Youth-Parent Socialization Survey was used to evaluate three different trends in young adult participation. First, the ANES is used to confirm that the act of voting or joining a political party is indeed lower for young adults compared to other generations, and that there are certain attitudes such as social trust that are declining in only those ages 18-24. Second, the ANES shows that certain attitudes such as social trust and interest in elections are declining for 18-24 year olds, while at the same time young adults are becoming less likely to vote and less likely to identify as a strong partisan. Third, the YPSS is used to evaluate the consistency of attitudes compared with the likelihood that a young adult will vote or join a political party over time. Lastly, both the ANES and the YPSS are used to see if the same patterns persist for non-traditional participation as traditional political participation. Through these analyses, we see that young adults who have low social trust and low self-confidence are consistently less likely to vote, join parties, or participate in non-traditional ways.