A new study from the University of Kansas found that students who enroll in journalism classes are more likely to vote.
“School journalism can attune students—perhaps more than other activities—to what is happening locally, nationally, and globally, and how such news affects the students and their peers,” the authors write in the study.
The researchers looked at survey data that followed 10th grade students at three times in their lives, hoping to see how many of them voted or were active as volunteers.
They found that while less than 12 percent of students took a journalism class, participation in those classes was shown to result in a voting rate 9 percent above their peers who did not take a journalism class.
“I wanted to know if there was a unique relationship between journalism and civic engagement and if there was a way to determine that,” says study co-author Piotr Bobkowski.
The researchers used data from the Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002, which was conducted by the Department of Education. The survey collected data from more than 15,000 students in 750 public and private schools. Students were observed in 10th grade, 12th grade, and at age 26.
The participation in journalism classes did not affect the rate of volunteering in the community. Interestingly, participation in debates and student government did increase volunteering rates substantially. There doesn’t seem to be any clear reason as to why participation in those activities increased volunteerism and civic participation.
Interestingly, journalism classes also caused students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds to be more likely to vote than their peers of other class backgrounds.
“Journalism might be more empowering for students form a low socioeconomic standing,” says Bobkowski. “Finding out in journalism that they have a voice may have more of an effect on those students than our more affluent students who may be used to being heard.”
What have you seen in your school? Do student journalists seem to be more knowledgeable about and willing to participate in the political process? Please share your thoughts in the comments.