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CIRCLE analysis finds young women of color are leaders in civic, political engagement

The Tufts Daily

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The Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life is pictured next to Jumbo on Feb. 8.Cora Hartmann / The Tufts Daily

By Elizabeth Zacks

Young women of color report higher levels of political and civic engagement than their peers, according to a recent analysis of a 2020 web survey by the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life’s Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE).

Gallup surveyed adults between the ages of 18 and 29 who were eligible to vote in the U.S. during the 2020 general election from Nov. 3 to Dec. 2, 2020. CIRCLE published an analysis of the survey findings, titled “Young Women of Color Continue to Lead Civic and Political Engagement,” on Feb. 3.

CIRCLE identified that young Asian women, Black women and Latinas discussed political issues — particularly racism — and voted at higher rates than white youth.

Noorya Hayat, a senior researcher at CIRCLE, commented on the significance of these findings.

“Young women of color outpaced their young, white peers on almost every metric,” Hayat said. “Not that young white women weren’t showing up or talking to their peers about elections or how to address community issues — they were — but young women of color were substantially more likely to do so.”

The report compared the civic and political engagement of young black and Latina women with that of other young women.

“More than three quarters of young women surveyed in November-December 2020 agreed that they have a responsibility to get involved and improve society,” the CIRCLE report said. “However, young Latinas (88%) and young Black women (83%) were more likely to say so than young white women (77%) and young Asian women (76%).”

The report also compared the rates at which young women of color talked to their peers about politics with the rates at which young white women did. Young Asian women discussed politics the most, with about 75% doing so, followed by Latinas at 71%, Black women at 69% and white women at 63%.

CIRCLE analyzed the political priorities among different youth voter demographics.

“Young Black women and young Latina women were more likely to believe that combating violence against people of color should be a priority, and they really feel the urgency to do so,” Hayat said. “Young white women also believe that something should be done to combat [violence against people of color], but the urgency to do so was dramatically different across racial lines.”

Alberto Medina, CIRCLE’s communications team leader, explained that political and civic engagement among young women of color is not limited to the 2020 election. 

“What stands out to me is that consistency with which we’re finding that young women generally, but young women of color especially, are just doing this work, year after year,” Medina said.

Hayat predicts, based on the trends from the 2020 election, that young women of color will most likely lead the fight against racism and other issues in the upcoming midterm elections.

“Because it’s a midterm, … if I were to look at this again, I would want to see how young women, and young women of color particularly, look at how public institutions or the outcomes of elections affect issues they care about and whether they see that connecting to their everyday life,” Hayat said.

Hayat also noted that election years are not the only time for civic engagement and encouraged students to get involved with the issues they are passionate about.

Medina explained that CIRCLE hopes its research spur young people to action.

“One of the reasons why we publish stuff like this [report] is because we want to highlight the leadership role that young people — in this case, young women of color — take, and we want communities and institutions to step up and to meet that interest with the appropriate resources and intentions that can elevate this work and help it continue,” Medina said. 

Dayna Cunningham, dean of the Tisch College of Civic Life, expressed that in her first year as dean, she has already witnessed and been inspired by the leadership of young women of color in civic life on campus.

“I’m especially proud that Tisch College supports that leadership through programs like the Tisch Scholars, through our civic studies courses, and on initiatives like JumboVote that are already working to get Tufts students ready to vote in this election cycle,” Cunningham wrote in an email to the Daily. 

Cunningham also noted the importance of recognizing which groups of youth people are disengaged from politics.

“If we want to build a truly thriving multiracial democracy, we need to understand how all groups of young people engage—or don’t—with our political systems and our communities, including right here at Tufts,” Cunningham wrote. “Doing so allows us to see who is not engaging, who is being left out, and where we have more work to do—together. That’s the power of work like this.”

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