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Interest in Issues in the News
Monday, January 18, 2010
By the time they are seniors in high school, most American students have taken a course in civics and another course in government. If they watch any news on television, they are exposed to a large number of public policy issues. But do high school students have any interest in these issues?
Each fall while they were in school, the LSAY participants were asked to indicate how interested they were in a series of topics frequently discussed in the news, using the categories very interested, moderately interested, and not at all interested. When they were seniors in high school (1989 Cohort One and 1992 Cohort Two), approximately one-quarter of the participants reported being very interested in issues about new inventions and technologies, women’s rights issues, and minority rights issues (see Figure 1). Only eight percent of the LSAY seniors reported being very interested in agricultural and farm issues, and only 12 percent were very interested in international and foreign policy issues.
Figure 1: Interest in News Issues in Grade 12, LSAY.
There are substantial differences based on gender in interest in many of these areas (see Figure 2). Boys were significantly more likely to be very interested in each of the three science areas than were girls. Twice as many boys (34 percent) reported being very interested in issues about new inventions and technologies than did girls (17 percent). Similarly, 30 percent of the boys, and only 16 percent of the girls reported being very interested in issues about new scientific discoveries. The boys were also more likely to report being very interested in issues about space exploration (24 percent) than were the girls (11 percent).
Not surprisingly, the girls were more likely to report being very interested in women’s rights issues (41 percent versus 9 percent). The girls were also more likely to be very interested in minority rights issues (28 percent versus 18 percent).
Figure 2: Gender Differences in Interest in News Issues in Grade 12, LSAY.