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Civic Ed

Adults of all ages agree: There's little confidence in elected leaders

But in general, young adults have a lot more trust issues than their elders

Sixty percent of young adults in the United States believe other people "can't be trusted," according to a recent Pew Research survey, which found that younger Americans were far more likely than older adults to distrust both institutions and other people. But adults of all ages did agree on one thing: They all lack confidence in elected leaders.

While united in a lack of confidence, the cohorts disagreed on whether that's a major problem. The study found that young adults (ages 18-29) were less likely than older Americans to believe that poor confidence in the federal government, the inability of Democrats and Republicans to work together, and the influence of lobbyists and special interest groups were "very big problems."

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Big Picture

Survey: Elected women outperform men, but a woman is unlikely to beat Trump

People favor an increase in female candidates and some think they often do a better job in office than men — but they are less certain that a woman can defeat Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election.

That is among several intriguing results of a survey released Thursday by All in Together, a nonpartisan political education nonprofit that urges women to participate in civic life and politics in particular.

The survey of 1,000 registered voters was conducted Aug. 2-9 and has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

More than half of respondents (58 percent) said that more female candidates has "been a good thing for the country." Also, 42 percent of women and 23 percent of men said that women in elected officials do a better job that men.

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If Americans are going to combat polarization, they need to begin from a clear understanding of what it is, writes Talisse.

Political polarization is about feelings, not facts

The ConversationPoliticians and pundits from all quarters often lament democracy's polarized condition.

Similarly, citizens frustrated with polarized politics also demand greater flexibility from the other side.

Decrying polarization has become a way of impugning adversaries. Meanwhile, the political deadlock and resentment that polarization produces goes unaddressed. Ironic, right?

Commentators rarely say what they mean by polarization. But if Americans are to figure out how to combat it, they need to begin from a clear understanding of what polarization is.

My forthcoming book, "Overdoing Democracy," argues that polarization isn't about where you get your news or how politicians are divided – it's about how a person's political identity is wrapped up with almost everything they do.

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Timing is everything: Why 'off year' elections are a turnout buzz kill

The mayor of Fort Worth, Betsy Price, had an answer for her city's historically low turnout in local elections. She blamed the schools.

"Part of the problem is public schools aren't teaching civic engagement," she said during a mayoral debate in May, the election a few days away.

One of her challengers, though, blamed the press. "If the media would get more behind things and get a fire going, we'd have better turnout," James McBride said.

And another challenger blamed the politicians. "We have leaders who don't want people to come out and vote because they know a low voter turnout favors them," Deborah Peoples said.

Peoples, the local Democratic Party chairwoman, lost the election and Price, a Republican, won her fifth term. But the research on what influences turnout suggests it was Peoples who was onto something.

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