Link between Newspaper Use during Youth and Civic Engagement in Later Life

September 18, 2007

This article is included in these additional categories:

Newspapers | Youth & Gen X

Young people who used newspapers in school and read newspaper content aimed at teens are more likely – when they become adults – to volunteer, vote and otherwise engage in civic expression, according to a study by the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) Foundation.

The greater the number of newspaper influences in a young person’s life, the greater the likelihood of future civic expression, voting activity and volunteer work, according to the study, “Lifelong Readers: Driving Civic Engagement,” NAA Foundation said.

The study focused on three main areas: voting activity, civic expression and volunteering time and money. The following are among the findings of the study.

Newspaper Use as Voting Indicator

Respondents who remembered having three newspaper influences when they were younger – newspapers in the classroom, as homework assignments and exposure to teen content – were significantly more likely to engage in voting activity than those who had no exposure to newspapers.

Of the 25- 34-year-olds who said they used newspapers growing up:

  • 61% voted in the 2006 local election, compared with 44% who voted but said they had had no exposure to newspapers during youth.
  • 27% were engaged in the 2006 local election, saying they tried to convince others to vote for or against a particular political party, wore a campaign button, or placed a sign during the 2006 election (vs. 19% of those with no newspaper exposure).
  • 24% said they donated money to a candidate or an organization supporting a candidate (compared with 13% of those who donated but had no newspaper influence).
  • 72% voted in the 2004 presidential election (compared with 58% who voted but had no newspaper influence).

Civic Expression

Respondents who remembered having the three newspaper influences when they were younger were significantly more likely to have expressed opinions on matters of public interest within the last year than those who had no such interactions.

Of those who used newspapers:

  • 56% said they boycotted a certain company because they disagreed with its political or social values (compared with 40% who had no newspaper influence).
  • 21% contacted or visited a public official to express their opinion (compared with 11%).
  • 18% called a radio or TV talk show to express their opinion on a political or social issue (compared with 5%).

Volunteering Time and Money

Adults who have been exposed to the three newspaper influences also were significantly more likely to have volunteered time and money in the last year than those who had no such exposure to newspapers:

  • 62% volunteered or did community service for organizations such as those supporting school or youth activities, tutoring, community improvement, political groups and others (vs. 37%).
  • 74% donated money to a civic group or association (vs. 51% of those with no newspaper experience).
  • 35% had helped raise money for a charity cause, besides donating money (vs. 19%).
  • 31% had been an active member of a community or national voluntary group (vs. 17%).

About the study: MORI Research interviewed 1,506 young adults in the US by telephone from May 15 to June 3, 2007. Respondents’ telephone numbers were selected using a standard random-digit dialing sample, and the data set was statistically adjusted to match updated US Census estimates for gender within age categories, education, race and census region. The survey sample included 51% men and 49% women. The age groups 25-29 and 30-34 were equally represented.


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