Social Science Research Council Research AMP Mediawell

The Resistance as Role Model: Disillusionment and Protest Among American Adolescents After 2016

Campbell, David E.; Wolbrecht, Christina
Political Behavior

We examine whether the unprecedented 2016 presidential election led to political disillusionment among young people, whether that disillusionment led to a withdrawal from politics or an intention to be more politically active, and if those effects vary by gender and partisan identity. Using a nationally-representative panel study of adolescents and their parents, we find that Democratic girls became more pessimistic about the responsiveness of the American political system in the wake of 2016. Democratic girls in general became substantially more interested in engaging in political protest after 2016, especially Democratic girls who became disillusioned with American politics. In addition, having a parent who became more likely to engage in protest after 2016 also encouraged more interest in protest among adolescents. We view these outcomes as evidence of the gendered character of the 2016 election (including the first woman nominee and the sexist language and behavior of her opponent) and the impact of activists in girls’ communities and families who served as role models for responding to the current political moment.