Assessment of the effect of a civics information intervention on the participation of year 13 students in the 2004 local body elections in North Shore City
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Young people in the Western world demonstrate that they have little connection to democratic processes through their increasing absence from the polls at election time. This trend is evidenced in New Zealand where the secondary school curriculum has little content concerning electoral and political processes. Low voter turn-out is particularly prevalent in the triennial local body elections where only a small proportion of all eligible voters participate.This research is based within two North Shore City secondary schools and has two objectives. The first to establish the current understanding of Year 13 students of the local authority, its activities, governance and decision-making processes and the second to assess the effect of this information on the election activity of the participants. Following the provision of this information to the selected classes and after 2004 local authority elections, the same classes completed questionnaires to ascertain whether their participation (voting and non-voting) in the elections was affected by this intervention. A post-election focus group of non-school-based newly eligible voters enabled some qualitative inquiry into rationale and attitudes.The findings indicate a wide degree of ignorance and reinforce the current political situation where young people see no relevance to them of local authority politics. The research highlights the need to engage young people in civic matters and increase their ownership of and involvement in the democratic process.