August 2008

Virtuous CIRCLE

Civic study group joins forces with Tisch College to study political behavior of young people

By Helene Ragovin

The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement "further strengthens Tufts' distinctive strength in this area of research," says Robert Hollister, dean of Tisch College. Photo: Joanie Tobin

More than 6.5 million people under the age of 30 participated in this year's presidential primaries and caucuses. The political behavior of young voters will be key in understanding what happens in the November general election-and beyond.

Now a major research organization devoted to gathering and analyzing data about political and civic engagement among young people has joined forces with Tufts' Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service. On July 1, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement-known as CIRCLE-moved to the Medford/Somerville campus and is working under the auspices of Tisch.

"We're just delighted to have [director] Peter Levine and CIRCLE joining us," says Robert M. Hollister, dean of Tisch College. "They are really the premier center on this topic, and that reinforces and further strengthens Tufts’ distinctive strength in this area of research.

"CIRCLE is a key producer of high-quality research, and has a real gift for translating and applying that research," Hollister says. "They have an influence and impact on public decision-making at the local, state and national level that is quite high. They are working to strengthen civic education in school from grades K to 12, so in that respect, it's just a perfect fit with Tufts' strategic emphasis on active citizenship."

Founded in 2001 and formerly housed at the University of Maryland, CIRCLE is a non-partisan organization funded by foundations, including the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Charles F. Kettering Foundation.

"There will be lots of opportunities for Tufts students to participate throughout the year in CIRCLE projects," Hollister says. "Certainly, on election night, there will be a small army of Tufts students helping to track and analyze results in a timely fashion."

Hollister calls a recent report issued by CIRCLE, "Millennials Talk Politics: A Study of College Student Political Engagement," the "best, most current account on that topic."

Currently CIRCLE is conducting a national study of political engagement among non-college youth, whose participation in the political process tends to be low. "Less is known about that group," says Hollister. "There is less programming and fewer resources-which, in a democracy are equally important-devoted to that population group, in comparison to people in college."

Helene Ragovin may be reached at

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