The Department of Political Science congratulates Daniel Gomez and Michele Zamora for winning second place in the Pacific Chapter of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (PAPOR) student paper competition.
Title: The Kids Are Alright: Connective Identity and the Youth Climate Movement
Abstract: Public opinion scholars, motivated by political socialization findings, largely consider youths under the age of 18 as an irrelevant demographic, citing their political opinions as unconstrained and irrational. However, there is an alternative narrative that views youths as rational political actors, with meaningful political opinions. We propose three theoretical claims: First, traditional political knowledge measurements may fail to accurately capture youth political behavior. Second, prior research has shown that issue salience can positively impact political behavior leading to early formation of political opinion and increased political participation. Finally, the digital media era has fundamentally transformed how citizens and institutions engage with political information. Narrative through online discourse constructs a particular type of political identity that begins by working outside of institutions. We refer to this as connective identity, a term which combines traditional collective identity formation theory with new ideas surrounding the use of social media as a space of narrative identity construction. Our claim is that when young citizens are exposed to high political salience issues and are participating in online storytelling narratives – as young political activists in a dynamic and unfolding social event – socialization processes are magnified and collective identities are created, impacting political behavior.