College Students Know More About Politics Than American Idol

The stereotype of the self-involved, culture-obsessed U.S. college student is wrong, according to a new study.

American college students today are actually very engaged in politics to the point that they are much more likely to know the names of their U.S. senators or congressional representatives than the names of winners of "American Idol," says political scientist Kent E. Portney of Tufts University.

His analysis of a national survey of 1,000 non-military men and women ages 18 to 24 included equal mixes of college students and non-college students and drew upbeat conclusions about the youngest cohort of potential voters.

"Young people seem to know more about politics than they know about popular culture," he said in a prepared statement. "This level of political knowledge stands in stark contrast to the image of young people as uninterested in and ignorant about politics and government."

Other findings in the study released today by Tufts include:

· About 79 percent of the college students and more than 73 percent of the subjects not in college said they voted in the November 2006 elections.

· Only 10 to 12 percent reported ever voting in "American Idol."

· More than 61 percent of college students and 48 percent of those not in college had participated in online political discussions or visited a politically oriented website.

· 58 percent of college students and 37 percent of those not in school reported being somewhat, moderately or very involved in their communities.

· Subjects belonged to an average of four advocacy groups on Facebook, a popular social networking website for young people.

· One in four subjects said they read political blogs.

College students tended to be more involved in community service and volunteering than those not in college, Portney said.

"While political commentators like Joe Scarborough may lament that you can't count on young people to participate or they'll 'leave you at the altar,' there is surprisingly little evidence to support this conventional wisdom," he said.