Though college students are often involved in volunteer work and online political activity, they continue to distrust the federal government, a recent survey conducted by Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government said.
According to the survey, the percentage of college students who said that they do not trust the federal government to do the right thing all or most of the time has remained consistent at 64 percent since 2000.
Georgetown students expressed similar views. Clare Tilton (COL ’13) said that she thinks U.S. politicians are not living up to their potential to effect positive change.
“Theoretically speaking, I firmly believe that the federal government has a lot of capacity to do a lot of good. But right now it would be hard to deny that the government has trouble doing much of anything,” Tilton said. “I think that politics has been getting in the way of governing a lot, and that can be very disillusioning.”
Students also say that their experiences at Georgetown, situated in the nation’s capital, influence their view of government and add to their political engagement.
“Especially being at Georgetown and taking classes about foreign policy, it’s changed the way I see how government works in general,” Judy Shing (COL ’13) said.
Samuel Dulik (SFS ’13), director of communications for the Georgetown University College Republicans, praised Georgetown students’ commitment to politics.
“Georgetown students are some of the most engaged and impassioned in the country when it comes to political issues,” Dulik wrote in an email.
Georgetown College Democrats President Vail Kohnert-Yount (SFS ‘13) said that the university’s core values contribute to students’ interest in government.
“Georgetown students are savvy enough to know that participation in politics is important, and it does matter,” she said. “I think it is Georgetown’s emphasis on being men and women for others that animates so many of our students toward involvement in government and public service.”
Politicians’ use of social media has also influenced the way college students engage in politics.
Though 60 percent of students in the Harvard survey named national newspapers as their preferred source of political news, 42 percent said they chose Facebook to gather information. College students are more likely than others of their generation to use the social networking site — 90 percent of those enrolled at four-year universities are members, as opposed to 80 percent of all 18- to 29-year-olds nationwide, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Of the survey respondents, 32 percent said they shared their political views on Facebook, while 29 percent had advocated a political position in a status update.
This focus on social media is also apparent on the Hilltop. Shing reads a number of foreign policy blogs, which she said she finds valuable and relevant to her studies at Georgetown.
Kate Newman (COL ’13) follows the White House on Twitter.
“I think it’s good [that the government is] embracing social media,” Newman said.
The White House also maintains a Facebook page, as do the Department of State, the Federal Courts and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Newman said she believes, however, that the federal government could make even more of an effort to connect to college students and members of their generation.
“I think that they could reach out to youth more,” she said.
—Hoya Staff Writer Sarah Kaplan contributed to this report.