Thought Factory Podcast #102 || Students, Politics, & Civility

In episode #102, we asked thousands of students questions about the topic of politics to see if it’s important to them and where their level of interest is about the current political environment.  We also interviewed a number of students from around the country about their views and opinions in regards to politics, so we can listen to some of their responses.  But the answer to one question that stuck out the most was to this question, “What do you believe is the best solution to today’s problems?”

It is obviously a political season and we do not advocate for either candidate or party, so we are not trying to sway you toward one party or another, but we were interested in what students are saying about politics.

What do you believe is the best solution to today’s problems?
38% of students stated choosing the right president was the best solution.

It is a bold statement to make that the right president is the solution, no matter the problems we face in this country.  But, it tells us that students are thinking about the topic of politics and recognizing issues that we face as a country.

We have found that the students are more engaged in politics than what we may have anticipated, or what adults have anticipated:

How important to you is the topic of national politics (for example, Presidential elections)?

Very Important // 22%
Somewhat Important // 24%
Neutral // 24%
Kind of Important // 14%
Not Important // 16%

Students are engaged to the point where they are saying it is important to them.  Between the two top answers, 46% place an importance on politics.  Even though based on the next question we asked, the majority feel uninterested.

When you hear the term “politics” I feel?

Hopeful // 14%
Disillusioned // 15%
Uninterested // 52%
Angry // 19%

What stood out to us was that 19% felt angry, where the majority of the students can’t do anything about politics since they are in middle school and high school, as their age restricts them.

So how do we engage students on the topic of politics?

How much do you share the political views of your parents?

Everything // 11%
Most Things // 29%
Some Things // 40%
Nothing // 20%

We brought up an article that gave insight into why we may believe what we believe in politics, and why we believe the other side of the aisle is so wrong.  The article was from Hidden Brain, “When It Comes To Our Politics, Family Matters.”

In the article, there are two models described; “strict father” and “nurturant parent.” In the former, “the father knows best, the father knows right from wrong, and the job of the father is not just to support and protect the family but also, with respect to children, to teach them right from wrong so they have the right moral views.”

“Nurturant parents, by contrast, feel their job is to empathize with their child, to know what their child needs, and to have open two-way discussions with their child.”

The “strict father” tended to develop a more conservative / Republican voter and the “nurturant parent” tended to develop a more liberal / Democratic voter.

The reason we discussed the difference is because it could assist us by knowing the family or parents of the students we lead.

How much should Christians be politically active?

Very Involved // 37%
Somewhat Involved // 52%
Barely Involved // 6%
Rarely Involved // 4%
Never Involved // 1%

We concluded that we should be involved but we should not put our hope into the system.  The political system will let us down, so we should not have our ultimate hope into it.  Because when we do, we tend to see a strong emotion of anger arise in people.

Nineteen percent of students said they feel anger when they hear the term “politics.”

Despite having different viewpoints, we need to show and display a great respect for people with different viewpoints.  We don’t need to steer students away from having strong viewpoints or being passionate about that viewpoint, but conversing with others with a high level of respect is important.  To speak with civility, even with those we disagree with.  We also may not agree with those in power, but as a Christian, can we pray for them earnestly.

Romans 13:1-2
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”

Our hope as people of Jesus supersedes any political hope. Our goal is not to change the minds of students politically, but to point them to the highest place of hope, which is Jesus.