An online survey of more than 3,000 middle- and high schoolers may be the first inkling of the Malia and Sasha factor over the insipid teen celebrity role models gracing the covers of Seventeen and Twist magazines.
While the Girl Scout Research Institute’s interviews of 3,284 boys and girls aged 13 to 17 attributes the increased interest in politics and community service to the presidential race, one has to really wonder how much of an effect the poised Obama sisters had standing by the side of Dad- and Mom-in-Chief on the campaign trail.
Nonetheless, the study offers some encouraging predictions for the next generation along with concerns that our daughters haven’t completely nixed the bubble-headed “Barbie” doll attitudes about their place in the world.
Leadership and Girls
• 59 percent say the election has increased their confidence in being able to achieve their goals in the future.
• 55 percent say the election has increased their comfort level in speaking up and expressing their opinions on issues that matter to them.
• 51 percent say the election has boosted their confidence in their ability to change things in the country.
• 55 percent of Girl Scouts versus 35 percent of non-Girl Scouts think they have a high chance of becoming President.
Race and Gender
• 43 percent of girls today strongly believe that “girls have to work harder than boys in order to gain positions of leadership,” a statement that just 25 percent of girls agreed with just a year ago.
• 37 percent of girls believe that “in our society, it is more difficult to become a leader for a woman than a man,” up from 23 percent in 2007.
• 24 percent of girls believe that “today both men and women have an equal chance of getting a leadership position” down from 35 percent in 2007.
• More than four in 10 girls (41 percent) say that the election has had a positive impact on their desire to be a leader.
• One in three young people believe that Obama was held to a higher standard because of his race, though 48 percent believe that ultimately race helped him in the elections.
Engagement in the Election
• 71 percent of teens intend to vote when they reach eligible age. One in two (49 percent) report an increased interest in politics; and 44 percent gained an interest in social and political activism. The election has had a particularly strong impact on girls and non-whites (especially African-Americans) in terms of increased interest in political activism.
• 60 percent of the survey respondents said they would have voted for President Obama while just 26 percent said they would have voted for Sen. John McCain (compared to the 53 percent/ 46 percent split in the national election. Two-thirds of respondents also believe President Obama will bring positive change to the country.
• 75 percent of the girls said they were excited about Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin’s candidacies.