Political Engagement Project (PEP), 2003-2005 [United States] (ICPSR 36977)

Version Date: Mar 13, 2018 View help for published

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Elizabeth Beaumont, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (previous), University of California, Santa Cruz (current); Anne Colby, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching; Thomas Ehrlich, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching


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  • V1 [2018-03-01] unpublished
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The Political Engagement Project (PEP), 2003-2005 [United States] collection includes data that was collected as part of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching Political Engagement Project. PEP was conducted to study the effects of a number of promising educational approaches that were designed to support political development. PEP data describe and assess the impact of 21 undergraduate courses and co- or extra-curricular programs in the United States designed to foster informed political engagement.

Outcome for PEP interventions were measured in four central dimensions of political engagement: knowledge and understanding, skills, motivation, and action. Political engagement was broadly defined to include a wide range of democratic involvement, including not only voting and electoral participation, but also many types of non-electoral or nonconventional activities, from informal political discussions, to involvement in community problem-solving, to boycotts, protests, and other efforts to influence political decisions or policies at any level. PEP survey instruments also included variables to explore students' political party identifications and self-descriptions to determine if these were impacted by the PEP interventions.

The courses and programs included in the study were located at a diverse set of institutions across the country and drew a wide range of students, including many racial/ethnic minorities and first generation college students. The data document the course and program goals and pedagogies, students' perspectives on their experiences in the program, and the impact of these experiences on key dimensions of political development such as knowledge, sense of political efficacy and identity, and skills of democratic participation. Students completed a survey before and after each course or program, and a small number of students from each were interviewed in depth. The faculty leaders were also interviewed and completed a survey, as well as participating in two in-depth conferences.

The student survey and other research instruments were designed to document and examine course and program goals, particular approaches to teaching and learning, student perspectives on their experiences, and the impact of these experiences on students' political learning and engagement. To that end, the survey includes a number of questions from existing national surveys that can be used to compare students to other populations, as well as many new questions the research team developed to help identify and understand students' experiences and outlooks with greater specificity and nuance.

This collection includes the following demographic variables: year in school, academic major, employment status, living environment, sex, race, age category, religion, citizenship, country of birth, parental country of origin, and parental education level.

Beaumont, Elizabeth, Colby, Anne, and Ehrlich, Thomas. Political Engagement Project (PEP), 2003-2005 [United States]. Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2018-03-13. https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR36977.v2

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William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Carnegie Corporation, CIRCLE (Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement), Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Atlantic Philanthropies, Ford Foundation


Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research

2003 -- 2005
2003-06-07 -- 2005-12-10
  1. The Data Collection Instruments found in this collection refer to student writing samples and other supplemental qualitiative data sources. Please note that the data corresponding to this documentation have not been deposited with ICPSR at this time.

  2. For additional information about the Political Engagement Project (PEP) 2003-2005 [United States] Study, visit the PEP Study website.

The Political Engagement Project has the goal of developing a sense of political efficacy and duty on the part of undergraduates as well as a set of political skills that students will need as they engage with the political world. PEP documents the goals and pedagogies of the participating courses and programs, student's perspectives on their experiences in the program, and the impact of these experiences on key dimensions of political development such as knowledge and understanding, active involvement, sense of political efficacy and identity, and skills of democratic participation.

Data were collected utilizing a pre/post survey administered as part of the Political Engagement Project conducted by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The pre/post survey data from students were supplemented by several other research instruments to obtain a more qualitative understanding of the interventions and student experiences than a survey alone. These additional instruments and data sources included:

  • In-depth telephone interviews with subsets of randomly chosen and faculty-nominated students to learn more about their experiences in the interventions and their current levels of political engagement;
  • Students' performance on a writing exercise measure designed to assess their ability to think about political issues in complex and integrated ways;
  • Samples of students' work from a subset of courses and programs;
  • In-depth telephone interviews with faculty and program leaders on teaching goals and methods, which took place prior to the start of the interventions;
  • A faculty survey on course activities, goals, and teaching approaches and perceived changes in students, completed subsequent to the interventions.

The survey is a before and after quasi-experimental design without separate control groups. Not only was a true experimental design with random assignment impractical given the limited resources of the Project, but a more naturalistic study has greater consistency with typical college conditions, in which students select most of their courses and extra-curricular experiences and faculty choose what and how to teach. This method was also more useful for demonstrating that a range of educational practices and experiences work in the field or in the natural settings where these courses and programs occur rather than in contrived or controlled laboratory settings.

PEP sampled 612 undergraduate and graduate students participating in political courses and programs at colleges across the United States between 2003 and 2005.

The study utilized two stages of sampling, beginning with selection of programs. In an effort to maximize variability, 21 political courses and programs were selected to represent a range of student populations and institutional contexts, including highly selective schools, open access institutions, and community colleges.

In selecting interventions to study, researchers purposefully selected those with:

  1. A focus on promoting political engagement, broadly construed;
  2. At least one key "pedagogy of engagement" (extensive student discussion or reflection, interaction with political leaders or activists as guest speakers or in other venues, politically-related internships, community placements or service-learning, research or action projects);
  3. Some degree of stability, meaning that the course or program had taken place at least once before and was very likely to continue in the future;
  4. Variations in academic content, learning activities, size, duration, level of intensity, institutional context, and student population.

In addition to differences in topical content, teaching goals, learning activities, institutional context, and student population, the interventions also diverged in the extent of students' self-selection. Some interventions involved a high degree of self-selection on the part of students, such that most students who enroll in them are already quite interested in politics and choose to participate because of that interest.

All students in these programs and courses were invited to participate in a pre-test survey upon enrollment and a post-test survey upon completion. The duration of participation ranged from a college quarter to two full academic years.

Longitudinal: Cohort / Event-based

Students participating in 21 undergraduate courses and extra-curricular programs in secondary education institutions across the United States.


Response rates were 70% or higher among all programs for each survey.



2018-03-13 Updates were made to the citation and documentation covers to reflect established authorship.

2018-03-01 ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Performed consistency checks.
  • Created online analysis version with question text.
  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.

There are no weight variables in the data.



  • The public-use data files in this collection are available for access by the general public. Access does not require affiliation with an ICPSR member institution.

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