Wednesday January 16, 2008

Talking Politics

University of Dayton junior Alex Orlowski chatted with Oprah & Friends Radio talk show host Gayle King about youth and politics, gaining national exposure for himself, his research and the University.

The Millennial generation grabbed headlines following a record turnout by youth voters in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary in January.

Talk show host Gayle King invited Alex Orlowski, a junior sociology/political science major at the University of Dayton, to discuss this up-and-coming, politically active generation Jan. 10 on her Oprah & Friends Radio show carried by XM Satellite Radio.

Orlowski is co-author of Millennials Talk Politics: A Study of College Students Political Engagement and author of Television Consumption and Civic Engagement Among 15- to 25-Year-Olds.

Both studies were released by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) and are available for download at

On the show, Orlowski said most Millennials, now between the ages of 15 and 25, grew up in schools that emphasized or required community service, an environment that made political and civic involvement second nature.

"Personally, I think that another part of it is as the Millennials were coming of age, we had a lot of world-changing events," he said. "During junior high or in high school, Sept. 11 happened. The Millennials were getting into the upper levels of high school and college, and then Hurricane Katrina happened. Those are some very real world events where the youth could have a significant impact, so I just think it's in our upbringing that we've been conditioned to get out and engage our community."

His research with CIRCLE showed many Millennials distrust the media and avoid political spin and polarizing debates.

"A lot of college students turn to their own friends or family members, people they trust to give them the kernel of truth," he said. "And they want to get the truth of the story and make their own opinions on it."

When King asked if anything in his research surprised him, Orlowski replied:

"You know, it really was surprising for me to be able to hear this message and see this turnaround that we've been hearing for the last decade that college students and young Americans don't care about their communities, don't care about getting involved in politics, and the study was really encouraging."

"It's full of promise, it's full of great hope for the future of America that a lot of these students don't even have their degrees yet, they're not even out in the working world, and they're ready to get out there and do what they can."