The Role of Registered Student Organizations in promoting Student Political Engagment.
By: Tatiana Sisneros
Hypothesis and Motivation:
My hypothesis test focuses on the correlation between students' participation in Registered Student Organizations(RSO’s) and their likelihood of being politically engaged through voting. As voter turnout and political engagement among young people have continued to decline, scholarship exploring the reasons why young people do/don’t vote as well as theorizing the ways these activities can be promoted among youth has offered some important insights. In his Annual Review paper Political Knowledge, Political Engagement, and Civic Education, William Galson examines the recent literature that has, “...renewed interest in the impact of citizen knowledge on the exercise of citizenship(i.e. voting)(Galson,220). Gaslon describes how recent research suggests a significant link between basic civic knowledge and desirable civic attributes like voting(Galson,223). Some of the major findings among the scholarship shows that even just basic levels of civic knowledge enables individuals to better understand how public policies impact their interests, and individuals who lack basic levels of knowledge can often find it difficult to understand political events or how to integrate new information into their existing framework(Galson,223). Most important to our agenda is the finding that there is a highly significant independent effect of civic knowledge on the probability of voting and that, “...the dominant feature of nonvoting in America is lack of knowledge about government…”(Galson,224). A more recent study done in 2013 continued to offer new insights to the research of different pedagogical approaches and their influence on civic/political engagement. By collecting data from a two wave panel survey of California and Chicago students, researchers discovered that, “...open discussions of societal issues promotes engagement with political issues and elections”, while, “...service learning opportunities increase community-based and expressive action(Crow, Kanhe, Lee, 1). From the scholarship we have learned that civic/political knowledge has a significant effect on the likelihood of an individual's political engagement, namely voting. We also have a better understanding as to how particular pedagogical approaches promote different forms of civic/political engagement.
With these things in mind my hypothesis test is as follows: student participation in RSO’s will increase their general political knowledge and therefore increase the likelihood of students voting in U.S. elections. My independent variable is student participation in RSO’s and my dependent variable is the students’ likelihood in voting. Along with my independent and dependent variable, political knowledge will be operating as a causal mechanism. My null hypothesis is that student participation in RSO’s will have no affect on their likelihood of voting. By testing this hypothesis we will hopefully be gaining valuable insights as to whether student organizations can/are acting as avenues for boosting political knowledge among the student body as well as encouraging student political engagement in the form of voting. If a significant correlation is found we will have a better idea as to how we can adapt or use RSO’s in the future.
Description of Concepts Data and Measures:
For my analysis I utilized three variables from the 2020 PAL data set. To measure my independent variable I used the question, “If you have been involved in a student club, do you think your participation encouraged your own political thought?”[ClubThought]. This question was answered on a four point scale with zero being “No”, one being “maybe”, two being “yes, a little bit” and three being “ yes, a great deal". My dependent variable was measured through the question of whether or not the surveyors voted in the 2020 election[Vote2020YN]. Lastly, I measured my causal mechanism by taking the sum total of correct answers given to four general political knowledge questions including: “Who is the Attorney General of the U.S.”, “How much of a majority is required for the U.S. Senate and House to override a presidential veto?”, “Do you happen to know the name of the current Speaker of the US House of Representatives?”, and “For how many years is a United States Senator elected – that is, how many years are there in one full term of office for a US Senator?”[Knowledge]. It is important to note that while my measure for the dependent variable take into account whether participating in a RSO stimulated political thought it does not fully account for those students who do not participate in RSO’s on campus.
Analysis and Results:
To test my hypothesis I created two clustered bar graphs in order to make the correlation between RSO participation and a students likelihood of voting in the election. For the first cluster graph(Figure1) I wanted to look at the correlation between club thought and the level of general political knowledge. As you can see from the graph it is clear that those who reported having higher levels of political thought stimulation through RSO’s also tended to answer more of the general political knowledge measures correctly. It could be construed as a little strange that those who reported having just a little bit of their political thought encouraged by RSO’s scoring better on the knowledge measures than those who reported having a great deal of political thought encouraged by RSO’s, however this could be due to surveyor misunderstanding. To really solidify the correlational relationship between these two measures I conducted a bivariate correlation test which resulted in statistical significance of 0.032(Figure2).
Next, to complete my hypothesis test I created a cluster graph to measure the correlation between levels of general political knowledge and whether or not our surveyors voted(Figure3). Before I go further it is important to note that in this particular study we may have been affected by selection bias as the ratio between those who did and didn’t vote is quite significant. This can skew our results just a bit as we do not have enough information to draw a full conclusion as to whether lower political knowledge levels result in a lower likelihood of voting. With that said we can conclude from what results we do have that there is a general positive trend between those who did vote and their level of general political knowledge.
After reviewing the results we can suggest that there is some evidence that points toward a correlation between participation in RSO’s positively influencing individuals to vote, however there is not a strong enough statistical significance to confidently conclude so. Further research should be conducted with a larger population in order to gain a more accurate reading of Fort Lewis student voter participation. I think it would also be pertinent to gather more information on students' relationships and participation, or lack thereof, in Registered Student Organizations. This could give us more important insights as to how RSO’s can play an integral part in promoting overall political engagement among students and Fort Lewis College.
The Role of Interpersonal diversity Experience in Student Voting
By Arrin Paul
To understand your surroundings is to realize the complex relationships existing around yourself, such realizations ought to encourage learning for the joy of it. If the world around us does not induce passion in us to learn about it, then what are we doing as human beings on this earth? I seek to better understand my fellow peers at FLC, and determine whether or not student diversity on campus would lead to more active political behaviors. The role of community engagement in facilitating interpersonal experiences are wondered about when analyzing political behavior. Similarly diversity of students on campus would also logically lead to interpersonal experiences. How does diverse interpersonal experiences influence political behavior? In order to understand this relationship, and therein better understand ourselves as FLC students, we need to figure out how to measure political behavior and interpersonal diversity experiences. For the ease of analysis, we will have to make several assumptions. First, that political behavior can be reasonable measured in intention to vote in up coming elections, second that Registered Student Organizations facilitate diverse interpersonal experiences during community engagement, and third, that by measuring RSO based community engagement we can measure diverse interpersonal experiences. Previous research done in the area of Diversity Experiences and Political Behavior have been done before, and Bowman N. A.in 2011 went so far as to stipulate there does exist a correlation between diversity and political engagement. With varying degrees of diversity experiences producing varying degrees of political behavior, Bowman found that interpersonal experiences to be the most likely to produce political behavior. I seek to see if the same holds true for FLC students, considering the implications of FLC extremely diverse student body any correlations would suggest influence. In short, I seek to compare RSO community engagement with intention to vote in the 2020 elections to better understand the implications of Bowman N. A.'s research at FLC.
The Independent Variable in this research is RSO community engagement, and the Dependent variable intention to vote in 2020 election.
Latent variables being, political activeness not associated with formal measures such as voting, Interpersonal diversity experiences occurring outside of RSO facilitated community events.
To address this the creation of a Null hypothesis is required. The Null being that no relationship between RSO community engagement and political behaviors such as voting. The Independent variable and dependent variable remain the same, and no correlation is expected.
The results of the data does suggest a correlation between RSO community engagement, and voting in FLC students. However this is of little value due to it not being statistic significant. This lack of significance most likely is due to selection bias, as less than ten students who participated in the survey did not plan on voting, out of more than a hundred. With such biased data it becomes impossible to reject the Null, leaving the data inconclusive. This was found using SPSS software. The correlation found is of no distinguishing value as too many FLC students expressed political behavior through voting. Being unable to reject the Hypothesis leaves the issue of diversity and student voting up in the air. More research would be needed to be able to reject the Null, but for now it may stand as selection bais has found its way into our PAL survey.
Bowman N. A. (2011). Promoting participation in a diverse democracy: A meta-analysis of college diversity experiences and civic engagement. Review of Educational Research, 81(1), 29–68. https://doi-org.fortlewis.idm.oclc.org/10.3102/0034654310383047.
Ro H., Bergom I. (2017, November). Who votes in college? Differences by gender, race/ethnicity, and field of study [Paper presentation]. Association for the Study of Higher Education, Houston, TX, United States.