Involvement with political issues can take many forms — such as joining or volunteering for a politically motivated group, petitioning the government about policy issues, donating money to an organization or cause, or simply talking about important issues around the dinner table or office water cooler. In this survey we asked about a number of different political activities — including direct involvement with political activities or groups; speaking out publicly or petitioning government officials through online and offline channels; and political behaviors on social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter — and found that 72% of American adults have taken part in at least one of those actions or behaviors. In this chapter of the report, we examine some of these specific behaviors and activities, with a particular focus on people who are especially active in political or social issues.
Half of all U.S. adults have gotten personally involved in a civic group or event in the preceding year.
Half of the adult U.S. population (48%) has been directly involved in a civic group, or has taken part in some kind of “in person” activity around a political or social issue in the 12 months preceding our August 2012 survey. We came to this figure by asking about six different political activities that people might take part in (see the table below for a full list) and found that 48% of Americans have done at least one of them (with that group being evenly split between those who did a single activity out of the six we measured and those who took part in multiple activities).
We asked a similar set of questions in August 2008, and overall there has been little change in these behaviors over the four years between 2008 and 2012. The proportion of adults who have recently worked with fellow citizens to solve a problem in their community increased from 28% in August 2008 to 35% at a similar point in 2012, but otherwise these behaviors were equally prevalent in 2008 and 2012.
In addition, a key finding of our 2008 research was that Americans with high levels of income and educational attainment are much more likely than the less educated and less well-off to take part in groups or events organized around advancing political or social issues. That tendency is as true today as it was four years ago, as this type of political involvement remains heavily associated with both household income and educational attainment.
In terms of political affiliation and ideology, liberal Democrats take part in political groups or activities at relatively high rates compared to other Democrats and to moderate or conservative Republicans (these liberal Democrats are especially likely to attend a political meeting on local, town, or school affairs; to be an active member of a political group; and to attend an organized protest).
Additionally, Democrats in general are more likely than Republicans to have recently attended an organized protest, and liberals in general are more likely to do this than conservatives and moderates. Otherwise, there are relatively few differences on this subject related to party identification or political ideology.
39% of all U.S. adults have used offline methods to contact a government official or speak out in a media channel about an issue that is important to them, and one third have done so using online methods.
In addition to asking about their direct involvement in civic events or activities, we also asked our survey respondents whether they have spoken out recently about political or social issues in various spaces or public forums. As we did in our 2008 study on this subject, we asked about four separate types of civic communication, each having an online and an offline component:
In total, 39% of U.S. adults have recently taken part in at least one of the four offline activities that we asked about:
- 22% of U.S. adults have signed a paper petition
- 21% of U.S. adults have contacted a national, state, or local government official in person, by phone, or by letter about an issue that is important to them
- 7% have called into a live radio or TV show to express an opinion
- 3% have sent a “letter to the editor” to a newspaper or magazine by regular mail
As with the “personal/group engagement” activities discussed above, the well-educated and financially well-off are especially likely to speak out about political or social issues in this way, and whites are more likely to do so than non-whites.
When it comes to partisanship and political ideology, conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats are more likely than moderate/liberal Republicans or moderate/conservative Democrats to have done at least one of the four offline activities we asked about in our survey. In terms of specific activities, political liberals and liberal Democrats are especially likely to have recently signed a paper petition, while conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats are especially likely to have recently contacted a government official using offline means.
Looking at the online versions of our “civic communications” behaviors:
- 21% of internet users have commented on an online news story or blog post to express an opinion about a political or social issue
- 20% of internet users have signed a petition online
- 20% of internet or text message users have contacted a national, state, or local government official online, by email, or by text message about an issue that is important to them.
- 5% of internet or text message users have sent a “letter to the editor” to a newspaper or magazine online, by email, or by text message
Taken together, 38% of Americans who use the internet or text messaging (representing 34% of all U.S. adults) have done at least one of these activities in the last year. Again, the well-educated and financially better off are significantly more likely than those with lower levels of education or income to speak out about civic issues via digital channels (whites are also more likely to do so than non-whites).
Self-identified liberals who use the internet or text messaging are a bit more likely than conservatives or moderates to engage in at least one of the four modes of online outreach that we measured in our survey. Liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans also stand out on this issue, especially when it comes to contacting a government official online or signing an online petition.
In total, half (50%) of American adults engaged in at least one of these eight online or offline communications behaviors in the year preceding our survey — and of this group, 42% did one of these activities while 58% took part in multiple activities. In particular, the college educated stand out as taking part in a large number of these political communications.
Other types of “digital-only” civic communications
Along with the four “matched pair” civic communications listed above, we also asked two additional questions pertaining specifically to digital interaction that do not correlate directly to offline behaviors:
- 11% of internet users have posted pictures or video online related to political or social issues
- 18% of text messaging users have exchanged texts with others about political or social issues
Demographically, younger adults stand out for their use of multimedia and texting around political or social issues, and the college-educated are more likely than those with lower levels of education to share texts about these issues. When it comes to ideological identification, self-identified liberals who use the internet or text messaging are more likely than similar conservatives to post political pictures or videos online (15% vs. 9%) and to share text messages with others about political topics (22% vs. 15%).
Online political contributions have grown more common since 2008, although offline contributions still dominate.
Some 16% of Americans have made a monetary contribution to a political candidate, party, or other political organization in the 12 months preceding our survey, similar to the 18% of Americans who had done so when we asked this question at a similar point in 2008.
Over that time period, online donations have become more common. Some 23% of political donors in 2012 said they made their contributions only online, compared with 15% who said this in 2008. However, the bulk of political contributors rely primarily on traditional methods of giving (i.e. in person, over the telephone, or via regular mail); some 60% of political donors made only offline contributions in 2012.
Demographically, contributions to political causes, candidates, or groups are most common among older adults and those with relatively high levels of income and education. Some 28% of college graduates have made political contributions in the preceding year, as have 29% of those with a household income of $75,000 or more per year and 27% of those 65 and older.
Although older adults are more likely to make a political donation in the first place, within the donor population itself, younger donors are more likely than their elders to contribute online — some 36% of political donors ages 18-49 contributed only online, compared with just 8% of donors ages 65 and older who made only online contributions. Online donations are also popular among the more affluent and well-educated cohort of political donors.
And as we have seen with our other research on political campaign contributions, Democrats and Republicans (as well as liberals and conservatives) are equally likely to make contributions in the first place — but Democratic/liberal donors tend to lean toward online contributions, while Republican/conservative donors tend to make their contributions offline, in person, or over the telephone.
As was the case when we asked this question in 2008, online and offline donors contributed similar amounts of money in 2012 to the candidates and causes they support:
- 56% of online donors (and 58% of offline donors) contributed $100 or less this year to political candidates and campaigns.
- 32% of online donors (and 24% of offline donors) contributed $101-$500.
- 8% of online donors (and 7% of offline donors) contributed more than $500.
Email and social network users are frequently asked to take part in civic activities within those online spaces.
When questioned about how they get asked by organizations (or other individuals) to take part in political activities — such as donating money, working for a candidate, attending political meetings, or contacting a public official — Americans point toward a wide range of channels through which they receive these requests.
Overall, print letters sent through the regular mail are the most common way by which Americans receive requests to take civic actions (some 43% of Americans receive these requests in the mail at least occasionally), followed closely by email and telephone calls. Requests that occur in the context of social networking sites and in-person interactions are the next most common ways in which people are asked to get involved, followed by requests via Twitter and text message.
However, email is the frontrunner when it comes to “regular” communication (defined here as requests that are received “daily”, “every few days”, or “once a week”). Some 21% of email users regularly get asked on email to take some action around political or social issues (that works out to 18% of all adults), with 6% of email users saying they receive these communications daily. Print letters, phone calls, and requests on social networking sites are also common ways in which Americans are asked to take part in political activities.
Taking all of these communications modes together, some 65% of Americans are contacted at least occasionally by groups or individuals asking them to take some sort of civic action, with 33% saying they receive these requests on a regular basis. As with many of the civic behaviors discussed here, this type of contact is reported more frequently by those with relatively high income and education levels. Some 81% of college graduates report being contacted at least occasionally by others seeking their involvement in political issues (compared with 34% of those who lack a high school diploma), as do 82% of those with an annual household income of $75,000 or more per year (compared with 50% of those earning less than $30,000 per year). And as one might expect from a group with this demographic profile, Americans who receive political mobilization or outreach messages are more likely to take part in a range of political or civic behaviors compared with those with less exposure to these messages.
Looking at the specific types of outreach we measured, conservatives and Republicans were more likely than liberals and Democrats to say they have received political “calls to action” in the mail, while the opposite is true for outreach on social networking sites. Some 52% of Republicans (vs. 43% of Democrats), 50% of conservatives (vs. 40% of liberals), and 60% of conservative Republicans receive political outreach messages via regular mail at least occasionally. On the other hand, liberals and Democrats were more likely than conservatives and Republicans to receive these messages on social networking sites. Some 32% of SNS-using Democrats (vs. 21% of Republicans), 34% of SNS-using liberals (vs. 23% of conservatives), and 41% of liberal Democrats who use these sites have received outreach or mobilization messages within the context of online social networks. Overall, liberals and conservatives are equally likely to say that they receive political communications in one venue or another at least occasionally, while Republicans are slightly more likely (by a 73% to 67% margin) to receive such messages than Democrats.
Americans are more likely to chat with friends about political issues offline than online.
When it comes to more general political “chatter,” eight in ten Americans say they have discussions about politics or public affairs at least occasionally in any venue or locale. And the bulk of those conversations take place in offline spaces such as in-person chats or telephone conversations.
Fully 76% of Americans say they ever discuss politics or public affairs with others in person, by telephone, or by print letter, with 15% of Americans saying they have political discussions in these venues on a daily basis. By way of comparison, some 44% of Americans who use the internet or text messaging say they discuss political issues with others online (such as by email, text message, or on social networking sites), with just 5% saying they have these digital discussions on a daily basis. Indeed, more than half of the entire adult population never has interpersonal discussions around political issues in online or digital spaces — 50% use these platforms but say that they never use them to engage in discussions around politics or public affairs, while an additional 11% do not use any digital communication platforms in the first place.
In a continuation of the themes established throughout this report, the tendency to engage in political discussions tends to rise with one’s income and education level — regardless of whether those discussions occur in physical or digital spaces.
Part 2: Political engagement on social networking sites
The digital landscape is significantly different in 2012 from what it was even as recently as 2008 — and the dramatic growth in the use of social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter over that time period is a big part of the story. When we conducted our first survey of online civic engagement in 2008, some 33% of online adults used social networking sites such as Facebook, and just 6% said they used Twitter or similar microblogging services. Four years later, 69% of online adults say they use social networking sites such as Facebook and 16% use Twitter, which means that 60% of all U.S. adults now use some sort of social networking platform.
As social networking sites have become more common, users now engage in a range of activities around political or social issues within these online spaces — from encouraging their friends to vote or suggesting political content to others, to joining issue-oriented groups or following the posts of politicians or other public figures. In our 2012 survey we asked about eight different politically oriented behaviors that users might take part in on social networking sites, and some 66% of SNS users said that they had done at least one of them in the past year. We refer to this group as “political social networking site users,” and they comprise 39% of the total U.S. adult population.
Some 24% of political social networking site users did just one of these eight activities, while the remaining 76% did multiple activities. The median political SNS user engaged in three of the eight activities outlined above.
Because social networking sites were a modest component of our 2008 study, we do not have trend data available for all of these activities over the full four-year period. However, we did ask similar questions about a subset of these behaviors that illustrate the growing importance of social networking sites as a place for activism and discussion about social or political activities:
- In 2008, 11% of social networking site users said they used these sites to post political news for others to read. In 2012, 28% of users said they posted links to political stories or articles and 33% said they reposted other types of political content on these sites.
- In 2008, 12% of social networking site users said they had friended a political candidate on these sites. In 2012, 20% of users said they have friended or followed a candidate or similar political figure.
- In 2008, 13% of users said they had started or joined a group on a social networking site organized around political or social issues. By 2012, the proportion of social networking site users who do this had risen to 21%.
Demographics of political engagement on social networking sites
Among Americans who use social networking sites, political activity on online social networks is common across a wide range of subgroups. Indeed, a majority of social networking site users in every demographic group — including seniors, those who have not attended college, or those with low household incomes — use these sites to engage in political activities or discussions. However, these behaviors are especially prevalent among the youngest users and those who have attended college.
When looking at political engagement on social networking sites across the entire population, certain differences are more pronounced because some groups are more likely to use social networking sites in the first place. For example, young adults are far more likely to be social network users than seniors —93% of all 18-24 year olds use social networking sites, compared with 23% of those 65 and older. So although 57% of social networking site users in the 65+ age group engage in political activity on these sites, that means that just 13% of all people ages 65 and older are politically active on these sites. By contrast, two-thirds of all 18-24 year olds are politically active in social networking spaces.
When it comes to party identification, Republicans and Democrats are equally likely to use social networking sites for political activity (this is true both whether comparing users to users, or comparing the prevalence of this behavior within the overall population of Democrats and Republicans). However, liberals are a bit more likely than conservatives to take part in political behaviors on these sites. And among SNS users, conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats tend to be more active on these sites than less ideologically affiliated users (moderate/liberal Republicans and moderate/conservative Democrats).
Social media conversations can spur deeper interest and involvement in political/civic issues.
Discussions of political or social issues on social networking sites can spur users to get more involved or learn more about those issues. These actions can be encouraged by discussions among friends, as well as from posts made by organizations or public figures.
Some 43% of social networking site users say they have decided to learn more about a political or social issue because of something they read about on a social networking site. This group is evenly split between those who were first introduced to the particular issue by people they know personally, and those who were first introduced to the issue by someone outside their immediate friend circle:
- 12% of users said they decided to learn more about an issue because of something they heard from someone they know personally.
- 7% of users decided to learn more about an issue because of something they heard from someone they don’t know personally such as a public figure or organization.
- 22% of users said they decided to learn more about an issue after hearing about it from both people they know personally and people they do not know personally.
- 2% decided to learn more about an issue because of something they read on a social networking site, but could not remember who they first found out about the issue from.
The remaining social networking site users (representing 56% of the total) say they have never decided to learn more about an issue based on things they read on these sites.
A smaller but still notable number of social networking site users — 18% — say that in the last year they decided to take action involving a political or social issue because of something they read on those sites. This group was also evenly divided between actions taken at the behest of personal friends and actions taken at the urging of organizations or public figures:
- 5% of users said they decided to take action on an issue because of posts by someone they know personally.
- 4% decided to take action because of posts by someone they don’t know personally, such as a public figure or organization.
- 8% decided to take action because of posts from people they know personally and people who are not part of their immediate friend circle.
- 1% could not remember who they first found out about the issue from.
The remaining social networking site users (representing 82% of the total) say they have never decided to take action on a political or social issue because of something they read on these sites.
Generally speaking, SNS users who say that social network conversations have directly inspired them to learn more about an issue or take some kind of political action tend to be highly engaged in many aspects of the political process. Compared with SNS users who have not been directly inspired in this way, they are more likely to be registered to vote; more likely to take part in political activities outside of social networking spaces; more likely to talk about politics with others; more likely to make political contributions; and more likely to receive frequent political communications or mobilization messages.
Demographically, age and educational attainment are the primary dividing lines when it comes to learning more about political or social issues based on social network chatter. Just under half of social network users ages 18-49 say they have decided to learn more about an issue due to information they encountered on a social networking site, compared with around one in three users ages 50 and older. Similarly, some 52% of college graduates who use social networking sites have done this, significantly higher than the 38% of high school graduates and 41% of those with some college experience (but not a degree) who have done so.
Similarly, when it comes to taking action on a political or social issue, those with higher levels of education (college graduates and those with some college experience) again stand out from the less well-educated. However, social network users of all ages are equally likely to say they have taken action because of things they have read or heard on these sites.
Democratic and Republican SNS users (as well as liberal and conservative users) are equally likely to say they have decided to learn more or to take action on a political issue based on something they read on a social networking site. SNS users who are conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats are especially likely to have taken action on a political issue based on something they saw on a social networking site compared with moderate/liberal Republicans or moderate/conservative Democrats (21% of SNS-using conservative Republicans and 27% of SNS-using liberal Democrats have done this).
Politically active social network users are frequently — but not universally — engaged with other aspects of civic life.
Political social networking site users (that is, the 39% of Americans who have recently done one of the eight general SNS-and-politics-related activities we asked about in this study) are also likely to be engaged in other forms of political and civic activity that occur somewhere other than social networking sites:
- 63% of political SNS users have recently taken some kind of “real world” action around political or social issues, such as attending a political meeting or working with fellow citizens to solve a problem in their community (48% of all adults have done so)
- 60% have expressed their opinion about a political or social issue via online channels (for example, by sending an email to a government official, or signing an online petition). This compares with 34% for the population as a whole.
- 53% have expressed their opinion about a political or social issue via offline channels (for example, by sending a letter to a government official, or signing a paper petition). This compares with 39% for the population as a whole.
- 20% have made a political contribution of some kind, whether online or offline. This is similar to the 16% of all adults who have done so.
Taking all of these together, some 83% of “political SNS users” also got involved in political or social issues in one way or another outside the bounds of social networking sites themselves. And compared with people who use social networking sites but do not get involved in political discussions within these spaces — or to those who do not use social networking sites at all — these politically active social network users stand out as being highly active in nearly all facets of their civic lives. They are significantly more likely to regularly talk about politics with others offline; to speak out about political subjects both online and offline; to get involved in political activities or groups; and to be regularly contacted by political parties or other organizations.
In discussing these differences, it is important to note that we cannot say for certain that this greater involvement in civic actions and behaviors is directly caused by people’s experiences or interactions on social networking sites. Indeed, the causal mechanism may in fact work in the opposite direction, such that people who are already active or engaged in political/social causes make use of social networking sites as another outlet for their existing interests.
What we can say is that a clear correlation exists between the use of social networking sites for political activity and engagement in a wide range of civic behaviors — in both the online and offline realms. The political actions that people take on social networking spaces have significant overlap with the political actions they take in other aspects of their lives.
Indeed, this correlation between online and offline political activity is true more generally. Individuals who are politically active on social networking sites are also highly active in offline spaces, and those who are politically active offline tend to have relatively high rates of engagement in social networking spaces. But this report is especially interested in how new technologies are used by people as they engage in the political process, and as a result we are focusing our analysis on trends in social networking engagement rather than those in other areas.
Those whose political activity occurs only in the context of social networking sites look very different from other political SNS users.
As noted above, 83% of “political social networking site users” take part in actions related to political or social issues in other venues (either online or offline). Of course, this means that 17% of these political SNS users (representing 8% of the total population) do not engage in any of the other behaviors we asked about and take part in political actions only within the context of social networking sites. In the final section of this chapter, we examine the unique characteristics of this particular group.
Compared to those who extend their political involvement into realms other than social networking sites, these “SNS-only” users differ in a number of important ways. Demographically, they are significantly younger and have lower levels of income and educational attainment than those who take part in political actions on social networking sites as well as other venues. They are also significantly less likely to talk about political issues in other online spaces, and to receive political communications from other people or organizations (although both groups are equally likely to talk about politics with others in offline spaces).
In terms of their political beliefs and partisan leanings, “SNS-only” political users are a bit of a mixed bag. They are similar to political SNS users who branch out into other forms of political behavior in terms of their ideological leanings; and while they are a bit less likely to describe themselves as Republican, they are also more likely to say that they do not identify strongly with any party in particular (some 22% of these “SNS-only” users do not lean towards either party, compared with 12% of the “SNS-plus” group). Interestingly, they are more likely than their “SNS-plus” counterparts (by a 16%-5% margin) to strongly agree with the statement that “most elected officials care about what people like me think.” But overall, there are no clear partisan or attitudinal trends within this group.
Part 3: Do online channels bring new voices or attitudes into the political debate?
One key goal of this research was to identify whether or not online channels of political engagement (social networking sites in particular) may be bringing “new voices” into the political process. Accordingly, our 2012 survey included a series of questions measuring people’s political beliefs and attitudes, in an effort to determine whether different venues for civic behavior may bring a different set of political attitudes into the public sphere. Our goal in doing so was to see if different types of political engagement over-represent (or under-represent) not just particular demographic groups but particular points of view about important issues of note.
In the final analysis, the answer in many ways is “no” — the people who engage politically in online venues have many of the same characteristics, behavioral patterns, and attitudes toward the issues of the day as those who take part in other (offline) types of political activity. Indeed, as we have seen in the preceding analysis, the “online” and “offline” cohorts of politically engaged Americans are in many cases the same set of individuals engaging with political issues across a range of venues or platforms.
In the analysis that follows, we will be comparing four different types of politically active Americans and assessing their attitudes toward various issues. Notably, many people fall into multiple groups because they have performed political activities or communications in online and offline circumstances. In other words, the groups are not mutually exclusive:
Traditional activists – This group includes anyone who has recently attended a political rally, speech, protest, or local political meeting; worked or volunteered for a political candidate or party; been an active member of a politically oriented group; or worked with fellow citizens to solve a community problem. It represents 48% of the adult population. The college-educated and those with relatively high household incomes are especially likely to fall into this group.
Offline political communicators – This group includes anyone who has recently contacted a government official in person, by phone, or by letter; signed a paper petition; sent a “letter to the editor” through the regular mail; or called into a live radio or TV show to express an opinion. It represents 39% of the adult population. Whites, the college-educated, and those with relatively high household incomes are especially likely to do this.
Online political communicators – This group includes anyone who has recently contacted a government official online, by email, or by text message; signed a petition online; sent a “letter to the editor” online, by email, or by text message; or commented on an online news story or blog post to express an opinion about a political or social issue. It represents 34% of the adult population. Demographically, this group looks similar to the offline communicator cohort.
Political social network users – This group includes anyone who has recently taken part in political activities on social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter, such as joining a group involved with political or social issues; following political figures; posting thoughts, comments, or links to stories about political/social issues; encouraging friends to take action on an issue or to vote; or liking or promoting material that others have posted. It represents 39% of the adult population. This type of political activity is especially popular with young adults, the college educated, liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans.
Some 28% of Americans fell outside any of these four groups because they had not performed any kind of political activity or engaged in any of the civic-related communications we asked about in our survey. This analysis does not cover these non-political actors.
Attitudes toward social issues
Both the “political SNS user” and “online communicator” groups have somewhat more positive attitudes toward gay marriage than are present in the general population. By a nearly 2-1 margin, each of these groups favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry (among all adults, same-sex marriage is favored by a narrower 48%-42% margin). On the other hand, the traditional activist and offline communicator groups largely mirror the general population in their attitudes toward gay marriage. These differences are more muted when it comes to attitudes toward abortion.
Personal economic setbacks
Despite some differences in their demographic composition, each of these four groups has been affected by the recent recession and poor economy in ways that are similar to their fellow Americans in the population at large. Generally speaking, these groups are no more or less likely than average to have recently needed to put off medical or dental treatment, delay a mortgage or rent payment, or cut back on food. Their rates of health insurance coverage are also nearly identical to that of the general population.
Overall, some 56% of the population experienced at least one of three economic impacts we asked about (putting off medical or dental treatment, delaying a rent or house payment, cutting back on amount or quality of food) in the 12 months preceding our survey. And when we directly compare the economically “affected” (i.e. those who have experienced one or more of those impacts) to the rest of the population that has not experienced these impacts, we find that:
- The “affected” are no less likely to own a cell phone, to use the internet, or to use social networking sites. However, they are less likely to own a tablet computer.
- They engage in political discussions at similar rates, both online and offline.
- They are equally likely to directly take part in an in-person political group or activity. Indeed, the “affected” are slightly more likely to have recently attended an organized protest or a local political meeting.
- They are equally likely to receive political outreach messages across a range of platforms.
- They are less likely to make a campaign contribution, although 13% have done so in the last year (compared with 20% of those who have not experienced any of these impacts).
- They are equally likely to publicly speak out about issues that are important to them in online forums, and a bit more likely (by a 41%-36% margin) to do so in offline forums.
- They are equally likely to take part in political actions or discussions on social networking sites, and are in fact a bit more likely (by a 35%-27% margin) to encourage others to take action about issues that are important to them on these spaces.
It may seem counter-intuitive that the “affected” group is so politically active given the great importance of socio-economic factors when it comes to political engagement. But while this group does have lower incomes relative to those who have not been impacted significantly by the recent recession, nearly half (48%) have at least some post-high school education (indeed, one in five has a college or post-graduate degree) and they are also younger than those who have experienced fewer economic impacts. In other words, their age and education levels place them in a relatively “high activity” category, even as their income levels might indicate a lower degree of political engagement. Ultimately, the recession and its aftermath have had a broad impact on the population, but was in many ways especially impactful on younger Americans — even those with relatively high levels of formal education.
When it comes to their opinions of the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements, each of the various politically active cohorts studied here are generally more “opinionated” than the population at large. That is, they contain a higher proportion of people who agree with these movements, and also a higher proportion of people who disagree with them.
Despite being more likely to have opinions about the Tea Party or Occupy Wall Street movements, all four of the groups have nearly identical attitudes when it comes to their general opinions about the role government should play in promoting economic growth and reducing inequality.