Political Involvement and Civic Engagement – Notre Dame Professor David Campbell

Political Involvement and Civic Engagement – Notre Dame Professor David Campbell

My research is focused on why people do — or, increasingly do not — get involved in politics. About 20 years ago, there were a
number of social scientists who wrote a number of works pointing out that the
level of civic engagement within the United States was dropping. 20 years
later we lament the political polarization that we see in the country.
I would suggest to you that those two things are related. As people pulled back
out of civic life, out of community involvement, it has led to the rise of a
form of political or ideological extremism dominating our political
system. So if we want to understand why it is that we have political
polarization, I would suggest you to understand why it is we don’t have more
civic engagement. And to understand why we don’t have more civic engagement, we also
need to understand why it is that people are civically engaged. One of the things
that my collaborators and I have found is the religious community — the actual
congregation, the group of people with whom you might worship — is an extremely
potent factor in driving people into civic life. Another huge factor in
explaining why people get involved in politics or in civic life is their
education. I have focused on the norms that are formed within somebody’s sort
of internal psyche when they’re in adolescence, the norm that one ought to
participate in politics, that voting for example is a responsibility. And I have
found that the ethos of the high school you attend is actually a very powerful
factor in shaping, not just what you do while you are in high school, but what
you do 10, even 15 years later. As somebody interested both in the study of
religion but also the study of schools and education, Notre Dame has really been
a perfect fit because there are many other people here who study, in other
ways, the roles that religion and schooling might play in either our
civic life or in other aspects of society. And so I have felt Notre Dame to
be a very natural fit for the sort of work that I do and I am glad that I’m here
and that the institution has supported me in the work for that I’ve pursued.

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