Panetta Institute’s 2021 Youth Civic Engagement Survey Shows Students’ Resiliency. Though Deeply Affected by COVID – 19, They Are Optimistic About the Future

In the twenty-first year of its nationwide survey of college students, the Panetta Institute for Public Policy has found that college students have been profoundly impacted by COVID-19. However, with case rates going down and the country beginning to open up, students are optimistic and express a positive attitude about the country’s leadership and their own future.

In the poll, 73 percent of the students say that COVID-19 changed their life in a very or fairly major way, and 33 percent lost a close friend or family member due to the virus.  Sixty-nine percent say COVID has had a negative impact on their mental health and 66 percent say it has had a negative impact on their college experience.  However, for the first time since 2015, a majority of students believe that the country is headed in the right direction, and students are more confident in the future of the country.

“Like so many Americans, college students have been deeply impacted by the disruption and loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” notes Institute chairman and former United States Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta. “However, what this survey reveals is, despite these challenges, young people have a generally optimistic view of the direction in which the nation is going. More importantly they are enthusiastic about their own participation in our democracy and are willing to take steps to help protect and defend it. Inspiring this spirit is the purpose of the work we do at the Panetta Institute.”

For a complete summary of this year’s results click 2021 Survey Executive Summary

All Four Events in the 2021 Leon Panetta Lecture Series Now Available for Viewing 


This year’s lecture series addressed this most essential question and ask how it relates to the pandemic; the new administration and relations with the Congress; evolving foreign policy; and restoring trust in our democracy amongst a crippling political divide.

Below are the dates and topics of the the 2021 season.  Click on the event title to watch a recording of the webinar presentation.

Monday, February 22,  6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.                 

The COVID-19 Pandemic – Can We Finally Win the Warwith Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Monday, March 15,  6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.                   

The Biden Administration and Congress – Can We Finally Govern? with John Kasich, Governor of Ohio (2011-2019) and Claire McCaskill, U.S. Senator Missouri (2007-2019).

Monday, April 19,  6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.                   

Allies and Adversaries – Can the U.S. Be a World Leader Again? with John Bolton, U.S. National Security Advisor (2018-2019); Michèle Flournoy, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (2009-2012); and Admiral Mike Mullen, USN, Ret., Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (2007-2011).

Monday, May 17,  6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.                   

Restoring Trust in the Presidency – Can we Heal Our Political Divide with with Bill Clinton, President of the United States (1993-2001) and Dan Quayle, Vice President of the United States (1989-1993).

Panetta Institute Receives $200,000 from AT&T to Support the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion of the Congressional Internship Program

In October 2020, the Panetta Institute received a grant of $200,000 from AT&T California in support of the Institute’s Congressional Institute Program.  The contribution was part of the company’s philanthropic focus on social and economic equality in underserved communities.

AT&T believes in investing in programs that uplift underserved communities so that they have opportunities for greater economic empowerment over the course of their lives. The Congressional Internship Program is designed to grow young people into tomorrow’s leaders, and we are proud to support the Panetta Institute’s work with a diversity of students.  

–  Bettye Saxon, Ed. D., Director of AT&T California External Affairs

Serving all twenty-three campuses within the California State University (CSU) system, the Panetta Institute provides California State University students, many from low-income families and first-generation college students, with educational programs that focus on opportunities in government, public policy and politics.

With support from AT&T, the Panetta Institute continues to engage a growing group of diverse California students who are interested in pursuing public service careers.  The mission of the program is to create robust educational and career pathways for students who may not otherwise have the opportunity.

— Sylvia Panetta, CEO and Co-founder of the Panetta Institute

We are committed to making sure that the next generation of public servants and leaders come from diverse communities.  It is about inspiring youth and creating opportunities for them to build a career in this important arena.

— Leon E. Panetta, Chairman of the Panetta Institute

Learn more about the Congressional Internship Program.

While the Panetta Institute is presently closed to visitors, we are answering phones between 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday and responding to emails at

Contact Us

The Panetta Institute for Public Policy
100 Campus Center, Building 86E
California State University, Monterey Bay
Seaside, California 93955

Phone 831-582-4200
Fax 831-582-4082

When using e-mail or fax, please be sure to provide your name, USPS mailing address, and your day and evening telephone number.