To inform universities’ capacity to encourage student political participation, we examine associations between four civic influences—civic instruction, deliberative course-based discussion, community service, and service learning—and youth participation during the 2008 presidential election. These four influences were selected because they are commonly integrated into higher education environments. Using an original survey, we employ a broad definition of political behavior to explore ways college students express themselves politically and to examine potential influences on their participation. We hypothesize that students exposed to civic influences are more likely to vote and engage in other participatory activities than those who lack such exposure. Findings reveal that educationally based civic influences that specifically address political content are more strongly associated with political behavior than is service-based activity. This supports an ongoing reform discourse that targets civic education as a promising avenue for increasing youth participation in American elections and suggests a key role that universities can play during election years.
Project: Youth Service