Young Americans are more likely than their older counterparts to be cynical and disaffected about politics. Their voting rates in both national and local elections have declined, they are less likely to be affiliated with political parties (when they register at all, many young people categorize themselves as independents), and in surveys they express higher levels of cynicism about the state of politics in general.

Kevin Mattson argues that recent attempts to reverse these trends are unlikely to succeed. He says that neither John McCain’s focus on campaign finance reform as a corrective nor former President Clinton’s emphasis on community service as practiced through the Americorps program is likely to re-engage young Americans in politics. Analyzing the historical context to assess the extent to which youth have participated in the political process throughout the twentieth century, Mattson makes the case for more extensive educational programs, public service internships, and innovative Internet strategies.