Heated rhetoric. Pack mentalities. Buzzwords. Embarrassing gulfs between words and actions. Sound like Washington? According to a new study, it’s just you.
UCLA researchers, in a survey of college freshmen across the United States, found that all that squawking on behalf of liberal causes is actually just part of a trend indicating all talk, no walk… sigh. Among other findings reported in the Chronicle of Higher Ed, 71 percent of freshmen are in favor of same-sex marriage and almost half advocate marijuana legalization. In the realm of substantive activity, however, the freshmen falter. A paltry 6 percent planned to participate in political protests on campus. Moreover, results revealed a roughly 5 percent drop in student participation in campaigns at any level of government from previous years. Rather than spur political activity, the fictional travails of Leslie Knope and the Pawnee Parks Department have apparently only encouraged us to draw sophisticated parallels between Ron Swanson and an actual libertarian named Ron. Comments on the study’s significance after the jump.
But what do these numbers actually mean for college students? On one hand, the research only surveyed freshmen, so perhaps substantial political activities, like drinking problems and Foucault fixations, merely come with time. The other conclusion might be more unsettling: that current college students are a generation of social activists in the most literal sense. Behind the safety of social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, anyone can make an unfounded claim decrying the idiocy of SOPA or support a liberal political candidate without being part of an organized public protest or volunteer group. In this way, the Internet may have changed the activism game by reducing accountability while allowing students to express liberal voices in the inconsequential pantheon of user-created web material.
There may, however, just be flaws in the data. Perhaps politically active students are less likely to respond to large social surveys, or maybe their activism is just more spontaneous. Do you feel that Brown’s political life is substantial? Or do you think the discourse is grossly outweighing the activity? Leave any comments below.