Bell Ringers
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By sunshinecavalluzzi
On November 11, 2018

Bell Ringer: Political Participation

"We are Witnessing what I Believe is a Once in a Generational Attitudinal Shift About the Importance and Efficacy and the Tangible Nature of Political Participation"

Polling Director of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government Institute of Politics John Della Volpe discusses trends in political attitudes and participation of young Americans.


Political Participation refers to the efforts of individual citizens to directly or indirectly impact public policy. By far, the most common form of political participation is voting, but Americans also engage in political participation by: expressing political views to others (in person or online), donating time or money to election campaigns, communicating with elected officials, signing and/or creating petitions, joining political organizations, attending government meetings, serving within their communities, running for office, and participating in activism events. Activism events can be either directly related to policy (such as the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom) or indirectly related (those intended to raise awareness of societal issues, such as Race for the Cure or Red Ribbon Week). Since voting is the most common mechanism of participation (in the United States and around the world), political scientists and pundits often focus on election turnout numbers to gauge political participation and its impact.

Bell Ringer Assignment

  • What are some of the questions asked by the biannual Harvard Institute of Politics Youth Poll?
  • What are some of the insights from the most recent Harvard Youth Poll discussed by John Della Volpe?
  • What recent historical events were cited by John Della Volpe that created significant shifts in attitudes that voting and political engagement had meaningful and tangible results?
  • What were some of the early insights, according to Dr. Leighley, regarding voter turnout in the 2018 midterm election?
  • How, according to Dr. Leighley, does voter turnout "really have to do with the politics of it"?
  • AP Government - Questions to Consider: Why is voting likely to be the most common form of political participation? What external events and political socialization forces impact the different levels of voter participation among different demographic groups? Which landmark SCOTUS cases have impacted varying levels of voter participation (in all forms, not just voting)? How are ideas of political participation reflected in Federalist 10?

Additional Resources



    • 1st Amendment
    • Activism
    • Political Efficacy
    • Political Engagement
    • Political Participation
    • Polling
    • Voting


    AP U.S. Government Key TermsCampaigns & ElectionsInterest Groups & LobbyingPolitical Parties


    Middle SchoolHigh School