Skip to main content

CIRCLE Announces Nonpartisan Commission to Study and Inform Policies on Youth Voting

Friday, January 4, 2013

The commission will examine all aspects related to youth civic education and engagement, and make relevant recommendations.

CIRCLE recently announced the formation of the Commission on Youth Voting & Civic Knowledge, charged with investigating under examined data—much of it collected during and immediately after the recent 2012 elections—with regard to the civic knowledge, voting behavior, and beliefs of young Americans ages 29 and under. Following a rigorous investigation, the diverse, bipartisan group of scholars and experts from across the country will release a report in the Spring of 2013 outlining their recommendations on how to strengthen both the civic knowledge and participation of young Americans.

A full list of commission members, information about the commission, and updates on its work and progress can be found online, here.

Commissioner Trey Grayson, Director of the Harvard Institute of Politics and a former Kentucky Secretary of State, said, “I’m excited about the commission. Too often we talk about issues such as voting and civic education without the data necessary to draw the right conclusions.  I look forward to serving.”

Spencer Foundation President Michael S. McPherson said, “The policy choices our nation makes in coming years will affect profoundly the lives and fortunes of today’s young people. Helping them to become active and effective participants in shaping their and our common future is a profoundly important challenge. We are proud to help support this commission, which we expect will do much to help us learn how to address that challenge.”

The Commission was formed in response to controversies about recent voting laws (for instance, state photo ID laws) as well as debates about civic education in schools and colleges. It will, however, take a broader view, considering a wide range of potential influences on political knowledge and engagement. The commission begins with no position on the existing or proposed policies; its deliberations will be heavily influenced by new data collected during and immediately after the 2012 election.

The Commission is funded by the Spencer Foundation, the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, the Youth Engagement Fund, the W.T. Grant Foundation, and the Chicago Community Trust and will be under the leadership of CIRCLE director Peter Levine and staffed by CIRCLE’s team of researchers and analysts. The grants will support scholarly research to aid the work of the commission in the following ways:

  • Conducting an ambitious, free-standing national youth survey to investigate the effects of state policies on informed youth voting;
  • Analyzing two waves of a national longitudinal survey of young adults, with a specific focus on the 2012 voting experience and photo ID laws;
  • Surveying and assessing state civic education policies;
  • Interviewing key stakeholders.

The bipartisan group of scholars and experts will use this research to inform its deliberations and final report.  Two recent studies released by CIRCLE provide some preliminary findings relating to the impact of state voting laws and civic education laws on youth voter turnout in 2012.  These are examples of the kind of research CIRCLE will provide to the Commission and the public.


Tisch College’s CIRCLE (The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement) is the leading source of authoritative research on civic and political engagement of young Americans.