Tag Archives: Young voters

Asking ChatGPT

My son the tech whiz recently shared some amazing  results from ChatGPT. He had asked it to compare the philosophies of Plato and Spinoza–which it did brilliantly, instantaneously, and in accessible language. It began:

Plato and Spinoza, both influential philosophers in their respective eras, held distinctly different worldviews. While their ideas do share some overlap, particularly in their quest for understanding the nature of reality, they differ in the specifics. Let’s examine their primary differences:

It then compared the two on the bases of dualism vs. monism, knowledge and truth, ethics and virtue and the role of God.

It was impressive, to say the least.

My son then asked it to compare Plato and Spinoza’s approaches to Buddhism, and again, the response was what a thoughtful and articulate philosophy professor might have written–but probably not in under four minutes.

Then he asked which approach would have been most likely to appeal to Einstein. Once again, the response was based on scholarly evidence, clearly written and organized–and instantaneous.  It was also lengthy, but the beginning gives a taste of the language and use of data:

Albert Einstein, a renowned physicist known for his theory of relativity and contributions to quantum mechanics, held views that resonate most with Spinoza’s worldview. Einstein’s philosophical and religious views were strongly influenced by Spinoza’s pantheistic approach, which equates God with Nature or the single substance that encompasses all existence.

Einstein openly expressed his admiration for Spinoza’s ideas. He was particularly drawn to the idea that God and the universe are essentially identical, and that God is not a personal or transcendent being but rather the infinite, eternal, and necessary substance that constitutes all things. This pantheistic view aligns with Einstein’s understanding of the natural world and the principles of physics. He found the idea of a personal God who intervenes in human affairs to be incompatible with the rational order of the universe.

Einstein appreciated Spinoza’s emphasis on reason, experience, and the objective nature of truth. He believed in a deterministic universe, which is in line with Spinoza’s view that everything unfolds according to the rational order of Nature. Moreover, Einstein’s focus on the underlying harmony and unity of the universe aligns with Spinoza’s monistic approach, which posits that everything is part of one substance.

Just wow.

While my son and I were discussing the absolutely mind-blowing abilities of this new technology, I asked him to ask ChatGPT a rather more pedestrian question: “Are young people today more politically engaged than young people 30 years ago? Include any statistical indicators (for example, voter turnout).

(My question was prompted by Lester’s predictable, stubborn dismissal of any suggestion that young people today might be more politically engaged or less self-involved than he is convinced they are.)

That response was also lengthy, but here are the relevant portions:

The pressing issues facing today’s youth, such as climate change, economic inequality, and social justice, have motivated many to become more politically engaged. These issues have spurred activism and participation in protests, which can be seen as an indicator of increased political engagement.

There are several statistical indicators that can be used to measure political engagement, including voter turnout, political party membership, and involvement in political organizations. However, these indicators may not provide a complete picture of political engagement, as they often focus on formal political participation and may not capture informal engagement, such as activism or online discussions.

Voter Turnout: Voter turnout among young people has historically been lower than older age groups. However, recent elections in various countries have shown an increase in youth voter turnout. For example, in the 2018 US midterm elections, voter turnout among 18-29-year-olds increased to 36% from 20% in the 2014 midterms, according to the United States Census Bureau. Similarly, the 2020 US Presidential election saw a significant increase in youth voter turnout.

Political Party Membership: Although party membership has declined overall in many Western countries, some parties have reported an increase in young members. For example, in the UK, the Labour Party saw a surge in youth membership in 2015-2017 under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

Involvement in Political Organizations: Young people today are often engaged in various political organizations or advocacy groups, such as climate change movements like the Sunrise Movement in the US or Extinction Rebellion in the UK.

While these indicators suggest an increase in political engagement among young people, it is essential to keep in mind that these trends can vary depending on the political climate and specific issues driving engagement. Additionally, increased political engagement does not always translate into increased political influence, as young people may still face barriers in having their voices heard or making an impact on policy decisions.

The entire response took three minutes.

It’s possible that humans are no longer necessary….


The Problem With “Get Off My Lawn”

Okay–I’m going to indulge in yet another rant. (Then I’ll return this blog to its usual political preoccupations–promise!)

You will have to forgive me for these expressions of bile: as the midterms approach, and my patience and sanity continue to erode, I tend to get annoyed by things I would probably overlook if I was in a less fragile state of mind. But one commenter to this site–who often has very thoughtful and pertinent things to say–has a habit that has sent me over the edge.

That habit? Repeatedly denigrating the younger generation. Characterizing and dismissing all young people as cut from the same “me me” cloth.

You know who you are…

This wholesale dismissal of the younger generation–the tendency of us older folks to shout “get off my lawn!”– has been going on since the time of Socrates. (If you don’t believe me, here’s a compilation of insults directed at young people over the centuries.)

These sweeping denunciations were wrong when they were issued, and they’re wrong now.

First of all, there is really no difference between insisting that all Blacks or all Jews or all White Evangelicals are the same and [fill in your preferred negative label] and insisting that all members of a particular age cohort exhibit [fill in your preferred behavioral insult].  Bigotry isn’t limited to defamation based upon race, religion or sexual orientation.

Secondly, and more substantively, it’s inaccurate–and I don’t say that just because it is demonstrably inapplicable to my own children and grandchildren.

I taught classes filled with young people for 21 years–my students (I usually had a total of anywhere from 60-120 in a given semester) ranged in ages from 18 to 35, depending on whether they were undergraduates or graduate students. My classrooms were diverse, and my students were pretty representative of their generation–I taught at an urban campus that drew students predominantly from central Indiana. I had some students who came from more privileged backgrounds, but the majority did not. A significant number were the first in their families to attend college.

And while there was some “self-selection” due to our programs preparing students for public and non-profit careers, our largest academic  program was public safety–and it attracted mainly would-be police officers. So I feel confident that I saw a pretty good cross-section of young Americans.

I would turn this country over to them in a heartbeat.

Overall, my students were inclusive, caring and community-oriented. I saw very little evidence of bigotry or “me-ism” and considerable evidence of a firm–even passionate– commitment to social justice and legal equality. The papers they wrote for my classes were, overall, thoughtful, and reflected genuine concern for their communities and for the underprivileged people in those communities.

Granted, when students entered my classrooms they rarely came armed with knowledge of the Constitution, Bill of Rights or other aspects of America’s legal structure, but their attitudes had been shaped by what I like to call “The American Idea”–a belief in both individual liberty and civic equality.

And they acted on those commitments.They volunteered and organized. When it comes to political participation, the data confirms that youth turnout has been on the rise; in 2020, it hit 50%, an 11 point increase from 2016.

 Recent surveys tell us that 59% of them plan to vote this year.

There is a lot wrong with America right now, and a lot of structural problems that make solving those thorny problems difficult. It’s tempting to look for scapegoats–but it is neither accurate nor helpful to blame an entire generation for the unpleasant or unhelpful behaviors of some of them.

Sorry to pick on a reader I really like, butI feel better now…..


And (Most of) The Children Will Lead Us….

As Americans were hanging on every update of the vote counting, Inside Higher Education posted a fascinating–and overall encouraging–graphic.


The embedded image shows the election results we would have gotten had we counted only the votes cast by those under 30. In a real sense, it also is a snapshot of each state’s “political future.” Overall, the map is comforting–results range from light to dark blue in large areas of the country, confirming my often-stated belief that the younger generation overall is more inclusive, more community-minded and “with it” than my own.

Voters under age 30 leaned heavily Democratic, favoring Joe Biden over President Donald Trump by a wide margin (61 versus 36 percent) in the recently-called presidential election, but there were key differences among young voters across gender, racial and state lines, according to an analysis of exit polling data from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University in Massachusetts

That said, there are some disappointing elements to the analysis. For one thing, young white men supported Trump by a six-point margin (51 versus 45 percent).( I am happy to report that young white women favored former vice president Biden by 13 percentage points (55 to 42 percent)).

Even more disquieting for my family of Hoosiers, Indiana remained red amid the varying shades of blue. Young people in Indiana will evidently carry on the state’s tradition of minimal, largely ineffective government and widespread racial antagonism. As my son recently pointed out, higher-education levels are low in the state, and young Hoosiers who graduate from college leave Indiana at a high rate.

Other states show evidence of evolution, albeit with that same disquieting racial breakdown:

In Georgia and North Carolina, 90 percent or more of young Black voters chose Biden, while more than half of young white voters (54 percent in North Carolina and 63 percent in Georgia) favored Trump.

In Texas, Latinx voters supported Biden over Trump by a nearly 50-percentage-point margin (73 versus 25 percent), while a majority of young white voters preferred Trump (51 versus 45 percent for Biden).

My son pointed to the analysis as justification for his advice to his teenage children–“find a better place to live; don’t come back to Indiana; we’ll follow you.” That advice was more anecdotal evidence supporting Bill Bishop’s Big Sort assertion that Americans are voting with our feet, and “sorting” geographically into locations where our neighbors share our political convictions.

None of this bodes well for Indiana. The past couple of decades have seen small towns continue to empty out. Children born in those towns, and the rural areas that surround them, have migrated either to metropolitan areas within the state, or left Indiana entirely. The super-majority of Republicans dominating our state’s legislature  has waged war on public education, creating a voucher program that sends already scarce education dollars to (almost always religious) private schools, several of which teach creationism in lieu of science.

Indiana’s legislature has also defunded higher education, resulting in Indiana’s finest colleges admitting ever more out-of-state students who tend to leave after graduation.

The low levels of education and the relatively low levels of diversity around the state contribute to a situation that’s exacerbated by the “winner take all” law that is the worst aspect of the Electoral College. Even if 49.5% of Hoosiers somehow voted for a Democrat, the state’s Eleven Electoral Votes would be awarded to a Republican who received 50.5%, a situation that encourages the legislature to ignore dissenting voices. That’s not a situation likely to bring talented people to Indiana, or to keep those we manage to raise.

People move to livable communities. Strike one against Indiana’s creation of such communities is our neglect of infrastructure. Strike two is inadequate funding of education. Strike three, as displayed on the embedded map, is the fact that Indiana voters — today and evidently into the future — can be counted on to support know-nothings and White Supremacists up and down the ballot.

Indiana–the Mississippi of the North….