Politics Have Failed Us
Post on 14-Jan-2017
Running Head: HOW TO CHANGE THE POLITICAL SYSTEM 1
HOW TO CHANGE THE POLITICAL SYSTEM2
Politics Have Failed Us:How to Change the SystemMichael A. DiPaoloBYUIdaho
AbstractMillennials vote less in political elections than any other age group. Does prophetic guidance make Mormon Millennials vote more than the national average? This project used surveys to determine the level of self-reported voting among students at BYUIdaho as well as a snapshot of their general political knowledge. Focus groups allowed students to elaborate on survey responses. Unexpectedly, students surveyed reported that they vote much higher than the national average, but lack political knowledge. This shows that voting rates are only an indicator of political activity, but not able to evaluate the effectiveness of each citizen. Moving forward, Michael DiPaolo is developing a website, shown here in demo form, to aid Millennials in politically educating themselves.
ContentsIntroduction4Methodology4Quantitative Results5Demographic Analysis5Political Knowledge5Political Activity6Attitude Toward Politics9Qualitative Results10Analysis12Quantitative Results12Qualitative Results12Conclusion13References14
Politics Have Failed Us:How to Change the SystemHarvards Institute of Politics reported that less than one-in-four (23%) young Americans say they will definitely be voting in November  (Low midterm, 2013). That bothered me, and it made me wonder if Mormon Millennials were just as politically inactive as the rest of the nation. Doctrine and Covenants Section 134 states: We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society.Given that Mormons receive prophetic counsel to sustain their governments, I hypothesized that Mormon Millennials should be more politically active than the national average, but still less than desirable (developed democracies average 70% voter turnout. The U.S. averages 60% (Voter turnout).).MethodologyExisting research was first sought out and compiled. Missing information necessary to proving the hypothesis was then gathered through a survey and focus group.A survey was sent to a random sampling of 300 BYUIdaho students. 50 responded. Respondents who provided an email address were invited to attend a focus group. One focus group was held; seven people were in attendance.Quantitative ResultsMy survey entitled Mormon Millennial Politics was sent to a random sampling of 300 current BYUIdaho students. The sampling was provided by the school. 50 responses were recorded (35 complete; 15 partial; 70% completion rate).Demographic AnalysisAll respondents were between the ages of 18 and 29, the average age was 21.5, and respondents came from 15 of the 50 United States.Politically, 27 (56.3%) identify themselves as Republican, 2 (4.2%) as Democrat, 5 (10.4%) as Independent, 6 (12.5%) as None, and 8 (16.7%) as pertaining to other miscellaneous parties.Political KnowledgeRespondents were asked to rate themselves on how knowledgeable they are regarding politics. 29% ranked themselves as below average (14), 29% ranked themselves as average (5), and 43% ranked themselves as above average (69). No one ranked themself a 10. The average score was a 5.24.When asked if respondents want to be more knowledgeable, 40 (82.6%) answered yes, 7 (14.3%) answered no, and 2 (0.4%) answered dont care.The survey asked a series of questions to assess the general political knowledge of respondents. The questions are listed below along with how many were able to answer each question accurately: What is the name of the current president of the Senate? Answered correctly: 5 (13.1%) What is the name of the current speaker of the House? Answered correctly: 10 (26.3%) How many U.S. Senators are there? Answered correctly: 17 (44.7%)Political ActivityRespondents were asked if they voted in the 2012 and 2014 elections. Results are displayed in Table 1.Table 1Respondents Who Voted in the 2012/2014 ElectionYearYesNoNot eligible
201215 (31.3%)14 (29%)19 (39.6%)
2012 (of eligible)15 (51.7%)14 (48.3%)N/A
20146 (12.5%)32 (66.7%)10 (20.8%)
2014 (of eligible)6 (15.8%)32 (84.2%)N/A
Respondents were also asked if they were going to vote in the 2015 primary election and the 2016 presidential election. Results are shown in Table 2 and Figures 1 and 2.
Table 2Respondents Planning to Vote in the 2015/2016 ElectionsAnswer Selected20152016
Definitely yes16 (33.3%)30 (62.5%)
Probably yes14 (29.1%)9 (18.8%)
I didnt know there were primary elections (2015) Unsure (2016)7 (14.6%)4 (8.3%
Probably not9 (18.8%)2 (4.2%)
Definitely not2 (4.2%)3 (6.3%)
Figure 1. Are you going to vote in the 2015 presidential election? This figure illustrates how confident respondents were in their future 2015 vote.
Figure 2: Are you going to vote in the 2015 primary election? This figure illustrates how confident respondents were in their future 2016 vote.Exactly 50% reported that they are currently registered to vote. Additionally, 28 (63.6%) agree that other people [their] age are interested/concerned about their community. When asked for examples of how they have seen others demonstrate their interest, discussing issues on social media, voting, and giving service were commonly cited responses. The other 16 (36.4%) disagree.Attitude Toward PoliticsWhen asked if they think that politicians in Washington D.C. are addressing issues that matter to [them], 20 (45.5%) answered yes, and 24 (54.5%) answered no. However, when asked if they feel like politics are directly relevant to your life, 31 (89%) answered yes, and only 4 (11.4%) answered no. When asked if they feel like [they] have the power to change anything in government, 12 (34.2%) answered yes, and 23 (65.7%) answered no. Some have suggested that the ability to vote online would help voter turnout; Of those who responded to this survey, 23 (65.7%) agree, and 12 (34.2%) disagree.
Qualitative ResultsSurvey results from BYUIdaho students were able to clarify some answers. Many respondents think that politicians in Washington D.C. are more concerned with selfish issues like retaining a position in government than with the needs of the people. Many also think that politicians are more interested in fighting with each other than with solving the issues facing the country.Respondents were split as to whether others their age are interested or concerned with their community. Those who answered affirmatively cited food drives, volunteer work, and community service as examples of interest and concern. Those who answered negatively frequently referred to arguing or not thinking in some form. They feel that others their age are too selfish or too lazy to be concerned about the community.A majority of respondents (89%) think that politics are directly relevant to their lives. When asked to explain, few were able to cite a reason other than because I live in this country. Respondents were also split as to whether they have the power to change anything in government or not. Those who feel powerless explained that their vote does not count because it is one among millions, and their representatives are not looking out for them. Those who feel empowered referred to the fact that each congressman can be contacted by individuals.During the focus group, an interesting problem emerged from one individual and agreed upon by the group: there is too much to know about politics. It is hard to start learning because no one knows where to start.In the articles read, the most predominant obstacles to the Millennials political participation are the following:1. Lack of trust in government and/or elected officials2. Lack of political knowledge3. Dislike of partisanship4. Lack of perceived relevance5. Disbelief that a single vote can make a difference
AnalysisQuantitative ResultsIt is no surprise that the average age is about 21 at the school, and that the dominate party is Republican. These numbers support the authenticity of the sample. It is also important to note that every student surveyed is currently enrolled in an institution for higher learning, which automatically makes him or her more likely to be politically knowledgeable and active. The results that demonstrate a lack of knowledge or activity should be more striking for the same reason.Over one-third of respondents ranked themselves as being more politically knowledgeable than average, but of those, 72% were unable to name the president of the Senate, 56% were unable to name the speaker of the House, and 33% were unable to correctly cite the number of U.S. Senators currently serving. This shows that this survey brought out some self-reporting bias. People are not as politically knowledgeable as they think they are.Of those eligible to vote, the reported turnout was above the national average. This number could be affected by the self-reporting bias, but could also be affected by the fact that this sample represents a well-educated population.Qualitative ResultsMost explanatory answers show that this group has a low level of trust for government. That holds consistent with other reports and studies targeting the Millennial generation. The perception is that politicians are selfish and not looking out for the common people. In a focus group, attendees were unable to give clear examples as to how they know this to be the case, but the feeling remains. Attendees also confirmed that fighting is a big perceived part of politics. They indicated that these arguments are rarely, if ever, productive. The relevance of politics suffers the same situation: some feel politics are relevant, but they are unable to give clear examples of how.Those who feel powerless can only reference voting as a form of political expression. It is likely that they are not aware of other, potentially more effective forms of political expression.ConclusionExisting research showed that Millennials in Utah vote less than the national average. Mormons make up 60% of Utahs population, so this may suggest that Mormon Millennials vote less than the national average.Survey results show that Mormon Millennials at BYUIdaho voted in 2012 at twice the rate of those in Utah. These results support my hypothesis, but they are self-reported and do not account for self-reporting bias.
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