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D. Sunshine Hillygus

Professor of Political Science
Political Science
Box 90204, Durham, NC 27708-0204
140 Science Drive, 203 Gross H, Box 90204, Durham, NC 27708

Outreach & Engaged Scholarship


Bass Connections Team Leader - Developing the Political Citizen: Uncovering the Origins of Political Attitudes and Opinions · 2019 - 2020 Projects & Field Work flag North Carolina Education & Human Development
Bass Connections Faculty Team Leader - Making Young Voters: Policy Reforms to Increase Youth Turnout · 2018 - 2019 Projects & Field Work flag North Carolina

Primary Theme: Education & Human Development

Low levels of voter turnout among young people may not reflect a lack of civic-mindedness, but rather may be the consequence of a combination of institutional and motivational obstacles that get in the way of people participating in politics. In order to address these obstacles, researchers and policymakers from multiple fields must evaluate the effects of policy reforms that seek to reduce or eliminate the problem of low youth turnout from two complementary directions—one within the education system and one related to election administration. In the education realm, this begins with a reconsideration of the nature and content of civic education. Whereas standard civics courses focus on a test-centric curriculum that teaches facts and knowledge about government, effective civic education must develop and reinforce relevant noncognitive skills—the general abilities associated with self-regulation and social integration that are not captured by standard measures of cognitive proficiency (i.e., standardized tests). Noncognitive skills, especially the general ability to follow through on one’s goals, can predict future political participation above and beyond well-known predictors like political interest, cognitive ability, parental involvement and socioeconomic status. As a complement to uncovering what skills prompt young citizens to follow through, there must also be a reevaluation of election policies and institutional practices that create barriers or obstacles to voting. This includes evaluating institutional reforms, such as early voting, and legislation, such as preregistration.

Bass Connections Faculty Team Member - Making Young Voters: Policy Reforms to Increase Youth Turnout · August 2017 - May 2018 Projects & Field Work flag United States of America