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The Impact of the 2016 Presidential Election on the Engagement of Adolescents

Thu, August 29, 10:00 to 11:30am, Hilton, Cardozo


The 2016 American presidential election has led to (among many other things) a dramatic upsurge in political engagement, and protest in particular, in the United States. Our previous research found that Democratic adolescent girls became more interested in political engagement, and especially protest, in the immediate wake of the 2016 election. Democratic girls were uniquely disillusioned about the responsiveness of American democracy after 2016. Contrary to expectations that such pessimism might lead to inaction, we found Democratic girls to be more engaged, particularly in the form of engagement that requires the most commitment: protest. Democratic adolescent boys responded to a much lesser degree to 2016, and Republican adolescents not at all. Observers have speculated that this mobilization of women, and especially girls, may have long-term political consequences and reverberations. Such election-specific effects are often fleeting, however, as other commitments demand attention and the initial shock that generated action fades to acceptance or apathy. In this paper, we employ a nationally-representative panel study of American adolescents (age 15-18) and their parents, interviewed across three waves—summer 2016, 2017, and 2018—to examine whether the impact of the 2016 presidential election on adolescent girls is persisting. Our unique panel study permits us to trace individual-level effects across these tumultuous three years in American politics, and provide insight into whether we might expect some sort of “generational imprinting” is underway in which Democratic girls are being socialized into an amplified level of political engagement.