The political knowledge of Australian 14-year-olds

Year: 1994

Author: Long, Michael, Boyer, Christine

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Youth in Transition is a longitudinal study of Australian young people. It currently involves annual contact with four national samples: persons born in 1961, 1965, 1970 and 1975. The youngest cohort was established when some 5,600 14-year-olds were contacted in their schools in 1989. At that time members of the sample completed literacy and numeracy tests together with a questionnaire which asked about their educational and occupational intentions.

The questionnaire also included a number of questions about Australian politics. These questions were basically of two types: questions which related to knowledge about present incumbents of political positions and their party allegiance (for example, What is the name and political party of the Prime Minister?); and questions which related to aspects of the Australian political system (for example, How old do you have to be before you can vote in Federal elections?).

Results from this study are relevant to the current debate on the need for students to be provided with citizenship education. This paper will map the extent of the knowledge of 14-year-old students of some aspects of Australian politics. The distribution of this knowledge across selected personal, educational and family characteristics of students will also be discussed.