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Survey reveals youth know more pop than politics

The 52nd Annual GRAMMY Awards - AudienceWho are you most likely to recognize: singer Rihanna or Chief Justice Roberts?

A recent study about political knowledge in America’s youth revealed that ORU students are more likely to recognize pop icon Rihanna. The study was made to prove a nationwide problem: America’s youth is not as politically knowledgeable as past generations.

Donald Houy performed this study for the Whole Person Assessment elementary statistics project in fall 2013. Houy worked in Student Accounts at the time, and therefore had access to all undergraduate residential students’ Z numbers. Houy used this advantage and selected 30 ORU undergraduate students randomly by Z number.

Houy met with each student and showed them pictures of Rihanna, Vice President Joe Biden and Chief Justice Roberts. Students who mentioned their names correctly proved their recognition of the public figure and were counted as knowledgeable of the topic.

“A majority of ORU students recognize Rihanna [24 students], whereas only a minority of students recognize Roberts [nine students],” wrote Houy. “We can conclude that ORU undergraduate, residential students are following a trend that America’s youth are not as politically knowledgeable as past generations.”

Instructor Jayne Ann Harder assigned the statistical project for students to practice what they learned in class. The project was assigned a month prior and continued with the instructor’s guidance for the accurate performance of the studies. Harder was surprised with the original ideas her students came up with, especially with Houy’s.

“[Houy’s paper] was very well researched,” said Harder. “To me it was very interesting to see the youth of today, who we are paying attention to and who is making an impression in our minds.”

The Pew Research Center shows statistical youth disengagement in political affairs. The “DoNets generation,” as the PRC calls people in their teens and 20s due to technology knowledge, are less and less informed about political news, while remaining up to date on celebrities.

ORU Freshman Abigail Feltham saw photos of Biden, Rihanna and Roberts, recognizing Biden and Rihanna. Feltham acknowledged she does not keep up with daily news.

“I don’t really have the time to look into the news,” said Feltham.

News organizations nowadays have no break. Social media released news is a 24/7 job. Despite “DoNets” being constantly surrounded with a flow of information at all times, their political knowledge has been decreasing.

“Studies reveal that only 26 percent of incoming freshman consider it essential and crucially important to remain updated on current events,” wrote Houy. “This percentage is contrasted with 50 percent of students to 1970 and 42 percent in 1990.”

There might be several reasons why students consider current political news events less interesting than entertainment news, but the jury is still out.

“While experts have hypothesized answers as to why America’s youth are disengaged, there is still a long way to go before researchers tell us why,” wrote Houy.

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