Fewer students, fewer women interested in political office

The desire to seek political office may be declining among college students, according to a Kaplan Test Prep survey.

The survey of 758 pre-law students showed that only 38 percent claimed an interest in running for political office at some point.

In the organization’s 2009 survey, 54 percent of students were interested in seeking elected positions.

Surveyors are also troubled by a gender gap suggested by the poll. While 51 percent of the male students would consider running for office, only 29 percent of female students would consider it.

Charlotte Lawson, a junior majoring in political science and criminal justice, said history and our nation’s current economic state could explain the survey’s results.

“I think perhaps because it’s so expensive to run for office,” she said. “It’s almost inaccessible to most people, particularly women, because of historical economic inequality.”

Cassie Feres, a senior majoring in art history, said male students are more likely to pursue politics out of a desire for power.

“I think maybe it’s some kind of intimidation thing,” she said. “Men seem to always want more power as do women, but it seems like as soon as they get scared, they back off.”

The survey illustrates a larger trend in that fewer lawyers are running for Congress and other political offices. Only 37 percent of current U.S. Senators are lawyers, a far cry from 51 percent in the 1970s. There is an even lower percentage of lawyers currently serving in the U.S. House of Representatives. Only 24 percent of today’s congressmen are lawyers, compared to 43 percent in the 1960s.

The reason behind this new shift is unclear, but Jeff Thomas, the director of pre-law programs for Kaplan Test Prep, has a theory.

“The current contentious political climate has engendered a souring on politics among the general electorate,” Thomas said in a news release. “So, it’s not entirely surprising that there’s less enthusiasm even among the current population of would-be lawyers, which traditionally produces a high percentage of politicians. That said, lawyers are still the most heavily-represented profession among members of Congress, which makes sense, as this is the body who writes U.S. law.”

Many students, however, view this new trend from a much more positive perspective. Thirty percent of the participants in the Kaplan survey claimed that they believe there are already too many lawyers involved in the political sphere. By the same token, 16 percent also claimed there were too few, while 54 percent said the current number was just right.

“The shine off the Capitol dome may be losing its luster for pre-law students,” Russell Schaffer, the senior communications manager for Kaplan Test Prep, said. “And many pre-law students don't seem very broken up about it.”

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