tv Book Discussion on Running From Office CSPAN December 13, 2015 11:00pm-11:55pm EST
public and information on upcoming events can be found online at westminsterforum.org. you can follow us or like us on facebook at westminster town hall forum. i'm the senior minister of the presbyterian church located at the mall in beautiful downtown minneapolis and moderator of the forum. it's my pleasure to introduce today's speaker. doctor jennifer lawless is a professor of government at american university in washington, d.c. and the director of the women and politics institute. i am a 40 year old self avowed political junkie. election day is my super bowl. the sunday morning talk shows are my favorite reality tv. and my computer search history shows it's my most visited website. the self avowed political junkie
graduated from union college in schenectady new york. she has a ba in political science and earned her m.a. and phd in political science from stanford university with funding from the national science foundation she's conducted extensive research focusing on the vertical ambition, representation and gender in the electoral process. she's a nationally recognized expert on demand politics and co-author takes a candidate like why women don't run for office. the latest book with the co-author richard fawkes is the focus of today's presentation. running from office why young americans are turned off to politics. ladies and gentlemen please join me in welcoming to the westminster town hall forum, doctor jennifer lawless. [applause]
thank you. [applause] colonoscopies, used car salesman, traffic jams, root canals and donald trump. what do all these have in common, they are more popular than the united states congress. it's true in head to head match ups a sample of americans said that they find that charming things far more appealing than the representatives in washington, d.c.. now the house and senate might take solace knowing they rated a little bit higher than the playground bullies, north korea and messagelabs is to be honest the margins were quite close. not just cute little polls that find this to be the case. the political climate has cultivated in the most negative attitudes towards congress that
we've ever seen. it doesn't even know what to do with december. not one in five voters trust the government to do what's right. congressional approval hovers at around 10% and senator john mccain even joked that congress is down to blood relatives approving of the jobs issue. for decades the pollsters also found that although people have never been in love with congress they at least support their own incumbents but in 2014, that reality was turned on its head. last year 60% of the voters said they supported replacing the entire congress including their own incumbents in roughly half the people said that if we were to replace the entire congress with random people walking down the street they would probably do a better job. it's hard to find any evidence of people that think washington is doing what's right right now so what are the consequences of the political system that is
held in a low regard in are the implications when politicians are viewed as so ineffective and the political system is so dysfunctional, how does the vote of the future for the democracy and what does it mean for future generations. the performance of us two decades has taken a toll on young americans who have come to know politics through the spectacle. bc politics and politicians as pointless. a senior leaders as corrupt and selfish and they have no interest in entering the political arena after. before i lay out this argument to provide evidence and at least speculate how we might be able to change this i feel like i have to come clean about something. it's true i am a political junkie but it's even worse than that. as a 2-year-old i was quite obsessed with jimmy carter. i loved his name, is completely
enamored by his responsibility and i worried for his legacy in so far as i could. by the time carter left the white house devastated as i was, my political interest remained intact, i was mesmerized in front of the television in 1981 as the hostage crisis came to a close and they disembarked at andrews air force base. at age nine to a political lever in the 1984 presidential election when my mother let me go into the voting booth with her and of 12 i faced a very difficult summer vacation i have to decide whether to hang out with my friends or watch the iran contra hearings. i should admit i spend more time that summer with the hall than anyone else. by the time i was a junior in high school i knew my way around the judiciary committee hearing hearing like nobody's business and i can still recite several of the questions questions cited at anita hill. in january of 1996 when my
college roommate came home upset about a breakup with a boyfriend i told him i would be more than happy to discuss it when bill clinton finished delivering the state of the union address so growing up in a publicized household where it was impressed upon me to stay abreast of current events in government it was so surprised i became a political science major and no surprise i got a phd in science and frankly no surprise that i've actually run for office. i might not envision taking on a popular at the time i said brown and hadn't received tenure but there was no question about something that i've ultimately do ultimately do and i was proud to do it via i always thought government was a way to solve problems for people that the people that run for office actually have good intentions that a political career is noble and there could be little as satisfying than hearing the call to public service. so it is from that orientation that both richard and i wrote this book and that's also why we are so disheartened by the
result. in running for office why americans are turned off to politics, we present the results of a national survey that we conducted at several thousand 13-25-year-olds and we asked about their attitudes towards politics and current events on, the career aspirations and political ambitions. and what did we find, that 89% of them, e.g. 9% have already written off the idea of ever running for office. and frankly as difficult as it is for me to admit this is hard for me to blame them. the current political system which is the only one that they have ever known considered their first political memory for some of the older people that we surveyed in the interviews that was the president lying to them and saying he didn't have sexual relations with that woman. for others it was the president lying to them and it was about weapons of mass destruction that experienced a government
shutdown and nobly gridlocked inefficiency as a function of washington and they see the same sad song played over and over again in the 24 hour news cycle. they would be crazy to not want to run for office so how do we arrive at this conclusion and more importantly what can we do about it that's what i'd like to spend the next ten to 15 minutes talking about about so that we begin with a sad state of affairs. i am an incredible pessimist. the glass is empty so you should take my remarks from that. in october of 2012 right in the heat of the presidential election we conducted a national survey of 4200 high school and college students so these were young people around the country. we asked about the political attitudes and aspirations. the following summer we did an hour-long phone interviews with a sample of 115 of them. we are going to demonstrate that
matter how we asked the question and no matter how we analyze the data the story is the same. they have virtually no interest in running for office. so we began by asking have you ever thought of someday when you're older you might be interested in running for office? 89% said no. 11% said it was something that occurred from them from time to time. even if it ever occur to you, think about it )-right-paren would you consider running for office in the future? 93% said no. it's because these are abstract questions that we are asking. the following jobs pay the same amount of money was would you most like to see and they could choose among a business owner, teacher, the mayor of their town or vice versa.
we presented them with another suboptions assuming they all pay the same amount of money what would you most like to be, a lawyer, business executive, high school principal which i think is the worst job in the world or a member of congress it was dead last that wasn't even close and then we ask about 20 different jobs from lawyer to teacher to journalists to journalist to journalist to doctor to nurse to electrician and present them with a list of jobs that included three political position and said check off any that you might be interested in thinking about doing. the members member of congress and the president of the united states placed 17th and 18th and 19th on the list. the only thing that that was less appealing with a -- and the next is why people don't want to be electricians. [laughter] then the attempt to get people's
attitudes towards running for office. hi school junior from texas, charlotte people in politics say that they are going to do something they don't do it. >> been going into farming. politics is for people that like to bang their head against the wall. i would rather know kcal and send one to office and franklin a college sophomore from iowa. by the time you're done with politics coming your hair has turned gray. i want to keep my hair not gray. i would never run for office. it's hard to imagine more consistent evidence of the fact that this generation, high school and college students today can think of little but is more unappealing than entering the electoral arena as a candidate for identifying the lack of interest running for office is one thing.
understanding the roots is another and essentially of her argument is that the dalia lives of young people don't involve politics. and it's not because they are tuned out. it's worse than that. this isn't just some lack of exposure to what's going on in the world. it's that they are consciously making an effort not to be engaged because they are so turned off. when they encounter politics, they actually try to minimize their exposure and shy away from it. and this happens in three different ways or maybe it's better to stay for three different reasons to let me give you a brief summary of each. the first has to do with family and the way they experience with the same household. remember this survey was taken in the fall of 2012 in the middle of the presidential election. 75% said that their parents never talk about politics at how. 80% said they never had a political discussion with their parents at a meal.
60% said they never had a political discussion with their parents after. 5% said they had a parent for never suggested he ran for office. they ran for office. 2% said they had two parents. it's clear that young people are not getting the message in their home about running that running for office is something that they should consider. several of them made points about why they didn't feel the conversations took place. a coach freshman said for example in my family we don't talk about political stuff. washington and politicians are miserable and terrible in a million miles away why should we bother with that? the high school junior mike vince never wanted to talk about governance stuff and they still don't. when it does come up they see the system is broken to pay attention to and it isn't worth our time. we do talk about it and we have
debates that have debates that have dinner debates at dinner that started in debates on important issues but then we wind up condemning the whole government from being so dysfunctional and ridiculous. so in fact we then ask people what would your parents think if you told me you wanted to run for office and the answers were all politically correct. my appearance would want me to do whatever makes me happy but then they never followed up with a sentence along the lines of that i can't imagine they anything that would make me happy. or they would be shocked. or i think they would be sad. i can be so much more than that. [laughter] >> now the family dynamics matter because family is the most important socialist agent in young people's lives. so those are five times more likely to have considered it. young people who talk with their parents about politics even on the occasion are four times more likely than those that never have to consider running for office. hi school and college students
whose parents told them that they should actually run are six times more likely to have gotten serious about that concept. the problem though is that families are few and the families are few and far between. and why wouldn't they be about the honesty and ethics of people that work in 22 different professions. he% of people thought they had high or high honesty rates. 70% said that they had pharmacists, teachers, doctors and military officers. politicians fared a little bit worse. fewer than 25% of americans rated officeholders such as mayors or city counselors as high on the ethics and integrity into the number was cut in half not just 14% for state legislator and members of congress reviewed less than 10% of those surveyed. the only people that perform worse than the members of
congress's appearance with busy lives were struggling to get by likely see little point in discussing with their families the latest failure in washington, d.c. or the most recent negative campaign on television. although political disengagement by adults and young people isn't a new phenomenon that recent surveys suggest now it is far worse than the previous generation in oregon ... makes it clear that the politics is part of the reason and its consequences that are also far-reaching. the second reason is cool with their friends in the media young people also shy away from politics. let me start with the facts again. i'm on the high school students, 65% report they've never had a conversation with their classmates about anything political. when we ask about 12 areas in the discussion coming young people might have with their friends, school crushes, beating
from a, sports entertainment, just 17% said they ever talk about politics. it came 12 out of 12 and the website reflects a similar pattern. social networking, shopping, music and entertainment have all garnered far more attention than any kind of political website. and the engagement again is not by mistake when young people look around and look at washington, d.c. and reported to us convention and ugliness and it's a thoughtful debate over the issues, called the conversations about issues that matter are the propositions to them. when they are with their friends they say they don't want to argue or debate, politics is off the table. but they cannot articulate their thoughts better than i can so somebody read you a couple of quotes. this is a high school sophomore. most of my friends don't care about things outside of the
texting world but that's what younger people do. we don't care about politics we focus on other things that matter in the places we can make a difference. a sophomore from los angeles says if i bring up anything more specific with my friends and a simple fact like obama won the election my friends are like i don't follow and that makes me want to tell them that this is our country and they should care but then they think i'm being antagonistic and we will have a fight so i don't. they summarize the line of thinking by saying we never bring up politics, politics goes the the mood. so it is hard to argue with this perception we live in a time when all national news, almost all national news about politics is negative and combative and home and it's almost as if there is no place for thoughtful journalism or positive news coverage and when the media isn't highlighting washington's inability to get the job done they are featuring political coverage that amounts to partisans on both sides of the
aisle, predictably bashing one another. fox news regularly treats its audience is too hyperbolic presentations of stories about barack obama's failures and his liberal counterpart, msnbc aired an endless array of stories while bashing the house of representatives. and the next day we see the same thing happening. it's not only television that presents this. they reinforce the message is. jon stewart described congress this way. i'm not saying it's bad at its job i'm just saying it's the equivalent to a skunk with a head in the jar of skippy peanut butter. when the house their 33rd of votes to appeal the affordable care act than the late-night show said it was mostly a symbolic vote that accomplished nothing or congress calls that a vote so exposure to the current events does tell us they are not
fully aware of what's going on in the world and that is terrible but it also demonstrates that they have very little incentive to garner the information that would information that would make an informed consumers. again those young people that talk about politics and do surf the web and find a political website and follow the news regularly are on average about six times more likely to say they might be interested in running for office. and then the third reason that young people away from politics is because of the politicians. in general, yuck is the word that kept coming up over and over and over again. again, the facts, six out of seven high school and college students do not think politicians are at all interested in helping people. four out of five do not think that they are smart or hard-working. and young people were far more likely to describe politicians as dishonest and honest, corrupt and good natured and selfish and
selfless. in the open end of the responses from the surveys and interviews this sentiment came out very quickly. some of the perceptions were amusingly inaccurate so one young man for example said he was concerned about the people on capitol hill. from what i understand he said most members of congress have a criminal record. [laughter] another most members of congress have been there for more than 50 years. he thinks that it's time for some change. but the more prevalent fantasies and accurate statements were the general sentiments where young people think of politicians as self-interested liars that are corrupted by the system. most politicians are hypocrites and a college sophomore, two-faced, they say one thing to get elected and then they turn around and do what is best in their interest. it seems they are out for themselves. politicians have to lie all the time it's just what they do.
in my opinion i don't know how to put it exactly, well yes i do. politicians are lawyers. sometimes it sounds like they are lying all the time. politicians come its not good. the people themselves probably started out good at the beginning but then have to sell out if they want to get anything done and then they don't seem so good anymore so today's young people can't imagine entering the system like that and adopting the treats in adopting the treats that they perceive as necessary to thrive. and many of today's high-profile politicians give them good reason to think this. if we have all day i could chronicle all of the examples that i'm completely obsessed with him congress on capitol hill and i can provide could provide you those details but it's not only scandals and adults recover the problem adultery that are the problem here. consider the representative of the republican from iowa. he dug his holes over immigration and in congress chuck schumer have a dual over
who has the zenith obeah. the senate majority leader harry reid the coke brothers poured into the election as the attacks on the senate floor and called the pair as un-american as you can get. ted cruz epitomized the unwillingness to compromise by shutting down the government just because he could because he has no plans to reopen the government. so although immigration campaign finance and healthcare are all topics worthy of serious debate and deliberation possible discussion in progress is often pursued by provocation in history. it's even reached the point where elected officials on both sides of the aisle are criticized when they behave responsibly. so the republican party for example lindsey graham for not being republican enough. here's the distinction despite receiving a 92 score out of 100 from the american conservative
union. what do you expect he supported president obama supreme court nominee. john mccain received a similar center from the party which condemned the long and triple record of voting democrat because he voted with them to end the government shutdown. liberal bloggers berated democratic congressmen who collaborated with republicans and mainstream democrats to reduce the deficit and the daily kos did popular left-leaning blog referred to moderate democrats as a title of suck. the little incentives for any kind of bipartisan cooperation. i know it's easy to you yawn or gloss over them behaving badly but that doesn't mean public policy doesn't suffer when elected officials can't work together and it doesn't emasculate citizens from developing political attitudes based on the behavior.
unfortunately what this means is the small percentage of high school and college students that view contemporary as a tiny fraction they are the only ones interested in running for office themselves. so what can we do about this? our political system is built on the premise people will rise up and run for office. we have more than 500,000 physicians in this country so it is the best and brightest of the future generations to think of nothing more unappealing than heeding the call to public service obviously compromises the quality of the u.s. democracy. but there is good news. there's a little bit of a silver lining. when we ask young people the goal of the future almost 80% said they care very much about improving the community and improving society. this is right up there with achieving professional success, getting married and having children. they want to make the world a better place they just don't see running for office and serving in the political institution as
a way to do that. so how did he change their minds? there are no easy answers and the two recommendations i am going to propose are not magic bullets. they try to build on the findings that that that an increasing number of exposure to politics could actually go a long way towards generating interest in running the prophet. we know that the more you see the more likely you are to find something that -- is appealing. this means you need to wade through a lot of to find that elected official that you think inspires you. to find an example of politicians in the community getting things done. if you are willing to get through you might find whatever appropriate metaphor i should have used. let me conclude with two of the five reasons we laid out in the book. i'm only going to focus on two because you have to find the book to find the other three. one that we think is an easy
suggestion is to make the political aptitude part of the college mission process. the 12 to 17-year-olds is to attend college. 80% of high school students we surveyed said that their most immediate goal but it's entirely possible right now to apply to colleges even the most prestigious ones and know absolutely nothing about politics or current events. you can't find iraq on the map, that's okay we've only been there for a little more than a decade. you don't know the name of the vice president lacks no big deal we will have another soon. you are unfamiliar with which party controls congress? it's not going to change anytime soon. you can google it later. why not link political aptitude to the college process lacks it could be in the form of an entrance exam, it could even be a quick little paragraph you have to submit when you submit your application. the mechanism is almost irrelevant what would be required as letting people know that in order for their
>> >> so it makes it very easy how to run for office and what position existed what the responsibilities are. that is quite difficult to find out i mentioned there are five budget thousand electorate - - elected offices there is a database that has this information with the requirements to run what is the responsibilities or how you get on the ballot. allows users to enter the address from president of
the united states figure it out how to become a candidate educators could clearly incorporate into their curriculum and those of the least bit curious cannot engage in a fact-finding mission and to even find out the opportunities. so it isn't like what goes on in washington d.c.. so the end of the day it turns them off to the idea of office and alienates them from a career in politics. but it is the only choice that we have.
to employ our politicians to think about the way they do business. to reduce government's to destroy it the country or refuse to do their job they damaged more than the short term trust they undermine the future generations that they will drill politicians into their head and will become politically interested for active adults and political candidates. people ask me if i am happy that i've lost the election and if i dodged a bullet. their wishes to know where the rather be. then with you right here of course, . there was no bullet to digest still think politics
is noble and public service is the best thing we can do we just need to make sure i am not the anomaly. thank you. [applause] >> you are listening to the westminster town of forum from downtown minneapolis. and his senior minister and moderator of the forum. professor of government at american university and author of the book running from office by young americans are turned off from politics. would like to thank the co-sponsors of today's for a.
with the on-line news source falling on twitter may tweet questions to us and we are especially interested in students from a fit of the high school that are here today. also the radio audience to join as here at our next event when foreign policy expert explores the topic of america and of middle east. and now a doctor if you return to the pulpit i will ask questions from the audience. >> dc any variation from students of color?
>> at the aggregate level there was some variation when there were less likely to said they're ready for office christian evangelicals were little more likely than women were less likely than men even though it is important it is hovering around a baseline. so it isn't like the results are driven by one small group of people high school or college men or women young people are turned off to politics. >> we're watching the debates do you think they do much to change the answers
of young people to politics? >> i think there are reinforcing everything - - every single word that i just talked about. [applause] last night after the cnbc debate we put together highlights that included absolutely nothing success are getting things done. it was barbs and labeled moments but this is what viewers want. we can blame a the moderators put the ratings have been through the roof when donald trump and ben carson says if cnbc did not look at their preferences they would pullout they had to accommodate because they
know that is ready get their ratings from. >> how do we become the political ideologues not to compromise? >> it seems the biggest challenge right now is letting people know have half a million electorate offices around the country many people are doing their jobs quite well. states are being able to of france he looked at bad behavior washington d.c. we assume that is representative of all officials across the board that is how we assess government and politics. that doing nothing is a legitimate the fed.
the highlight at the state in a local level where people come together. keep in mind several thousand elected positions are completely non-partisan. not only do not know if they're republicans or democrats but the issues that they deal with so turning them on to showcase may be one way to get around the problem. >>. >> idle think anyone does but those that benefit are the student body presidents that they can continue to be in office. if we can inspire the next generation we will not have vacant offices but the same old same old and generally
speaking we will wind up suffering. >> cater given your findings or conclusions to actual politicians? and what is their reaction? >> we presented the findings to the office of public engagement and they agreed thing is are terrible. to be on a panel with two newly elected women that very much blame the media. we're also on the panel and he blames members of the congress. so we have seen a general sense so it is the current state of affairs but from our perspective we can blame
both of them and move on. >> talking about the political process do young people vote? if so do they participate in the process? >> voter turnout in general is nothing to appraiser sells about but that is the one area to see sustained levels of engagement were asked about any political activity they did say they remember going to vote with their parents so there does seem to be a civic duty attached that that is where it tends to end.
that is not sufficient to motivate them to increase their exposure more broadly. >> as a model assembly program 1600 students legislature what do you have to say about students who are actively involved in politics even running for office already? >> that is the best thing you can do. you are involved with political extracurricular activities in high school or college you are far more likely b-2 develop the political bug and sustain through life. the young people's involvement like mock trial are low. this is not the activities most are interested in pursuing the when the ingredients are there that
is one of the hardest hurdles to clear initially. the annual stickout political knowledge and information. your goal should be to get as many of your classmates because to broaden a sense of what politics is. >> to encourage politics in a homeboy to redo the schools? >> when i mentioned almost no parents stayed encouragement the parent numbers were the highest fare even likely to encourage their best and brightest because it is not a noble profession so the
best thing we can do to think of electoral office as a pat on the radar screen it doesn't matter that source. it is something you think about later in life. >> focusing on the cost of the political campaign is that turning off young people? >> i wish it did because that will lead implied they've always citizens united is. [laughter] they say that the typical congressional race is over a billion dollars or the supertax in the process saying they will not throw their hat into the ring. but there were not thinking of the nuts and bolts
involved or their rigor of withstanding the race but it knee-jerk reaction isn't like there is any public policy but the way it is conducted. >> is there a way to engage young voters? >> no. political culture is very so much we will never have mandatory voting. we will not send them offline because they did not show what but linking that to the process as long as we have the individualism underlying hour political culture is difficult to come up with a national rule.
even if it is disheartening it is fine for those incumbents that keep getting reelected. with a one to do a thing to fundamentally change the system. >> historically they have been good campaign workers. if not involve now who is running them? >> they are the 11%. they can always identified to find some anomaly people that our political junkies that rally behind the candidates to knock on doors. but that group of people they're not representative of the country it's just how they feel disengage.
it is not that don't have candidates knocking on doors to that they can engage their government and what happened to that? >> that died there was a much staying power and that is a very high bar to place some one person. barack obama is supposed to change 25 years of congressional this function with patterns that young people have no interest in politics. that is useful and vital and beneficial.
where young people tend to get their note -- their news. i am more likely to get a from a comedy show than c-span. how would you recommend changing your presentation of information? to they do damage to young people? >> they don't do damage only 13 percent said they watched even on occasion. the young people when are not typical but exposure to politics makes it more likely to run for office. even though it is satire and john stuart would criticize the problems there was the optimistic undertone that government has the capacity
to do better and with better people there might be a success. don't you think shows like "house of cards" turns people off? no. if you can follow "house of cards" your already turned on. [laughter] is a possible feed into the negative attitude? >> as long as the conversation and there is zero attention to the margin of error. has a the to do with substance or solving problems. but it is tricky because you want to raise money with the best thing she could do is
to highlight you are ahead in the polls. these acts have to come together and it is tricky to figure out to incentivize that. >> you ran for congress or at least a primary that it was one of the best experiences of your life. so we assume you may try again. if elected, what would you do to make a difference? the neck let's be careful. [laughter] the best thing as far as congress is concerned there are institutional rules that make it difficult for any one person to change the way of things get done. and makes it quite easy for small group to obstruct to make sure they don't get anything done.
and to vote your constituents' interest to have a general belief in the second piece is the most important it is totally fine to run the campaign as the ideologue there are 435 members of the house either everyone can move all little or digging their heels and not. to have an outcome that is as close to what you want as possible but that matters more than nine at all. i would push for outcome. that was the most vague political statement ever. [laughter]
[applause] >> now can you specifically say but it gives you hope about democracy in america? >> it is a sleepy and pendulum. in the last 25 years this generation has only seen dysfunction, a government shutdown, but over time there has been a lot of areas of dysfunction the civil war was not know what can the part. but the problem right now why i am worried i an not convinced to have a the best people that is why the book tries to incentivize the political interest we can swing the getaway with fresh