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The Impact of AmeriCorps on Voting

Our study finds no evidence that AmeriCorps politically mobilizes young people, and that non-voters are actually more likely to enroll in the program.

A new CIRCLE study finds no evidence that the federally funded service program AmeriCorps mobilizes people politically.

According to the fact sheet describing these findings, young adults tend to become more civically engaged during their twenties, regardless of whether or not they serve in AmeriCorps. The report shows that AmeriCorps has no independent effect on the chances that disengaged youth will start voting, but it substantially broadens the civic engagement of those who do vote. They become involved in their communities in non-political ways.

Below you can view and download The Impact of AmeriCorps on Voting, a CIRCLE fact sheet by Andrea K. Finlay, Human Development and Family Studies, The Pennsylvania State University; Constance Flanagan, Dept. of Interdisciplinary Studies, School of Human Ecology, University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Laura Wray-Lake, School of Behavioral and Organizational Sciences, Claremont Graduate University.

The authors used data from a nationally representative, eight-year longitudinal study of more than 3,000 people, comparing those who enrolled in AmeriCorps with those who indicated interest in the program but did not enroll.

Peter Levine, Director of CIRCLE, noted that the relationship between federal service programs and political engagement has been controversial in recent years.

“Some conservative critics have argued that programs like AmeriCorps could encourage young people to take political action in favor of liberal causes or Democratic candidates,” Levine said. “Other critics have worried that the program, which promotes volunteering and has strict rules against political activity, may divert young people toward uncontroversial service and away from electoral politics.”

Levine continued, “In fact, non-voters are substantially more likely to enroll in AmeriCorps, and there is little evidence that the program channels engagement away from politics. Specifically, the report shows that active voters who enroll in AmeriCorps will become more broadly active in community affairs eight years later.”