New European Youth Panel Published

January 12

Our Youth vs the World – Participation and Agency compared

The explicit purpose of the European Youth Panel is to study ideas rather than attitudes. Our newly published survey, however, is to some extent a special case. In an attempt to gauge the attitudes of IYTT-engaged youth in comparison to the general public, we borrowed three questions used in the European Social Survey (ESS) and the World Values Survey (WVS). True to our ideal of studying ideas, we also allowed the participants to elaborate in free text.

Results show that the youth of the IYTT are far more interested in politics than people in general, and also a lot more confident in their ability to participate in politics. However, like the population at large, they do not consider national political systems to be very receptive to influence from people like themselves.

There seems to be a disconnect between the youths self-perceived ability and the opportunities to exercise that ability. Formal politics are often described as something for people with power and wealth: “politics are very much elitist, in a sense that often it is only well-connected or wealthy people who have a voice”. Youth and women are described as systematically excluded from the corridors of power, “political power is held by older generations”, “it is much more difficult for women to participate in politics because of sexism”. One respondent sums it up: “[it] is frustrating to be interested in politics. Especially if you’re a young person, it is common to see your hopes crashed by the party or … politicians in charge”. Another claims laconically that, “democracy here is only a formally written part of our constitution”.

However, to some extent, it seems that the youth of the IYTT put their faith and engagement in spaces beyond (possibly both within and without) the nation state. Namely, in non-governmental organisations and movements “through youth movements and associations, it is possible for … young people to start participating in politics”, in supra-national politics “I work in the “Brussels Bubble” and current political affairs are relevant in my everyday life”, in the social media “with the new generation of media, everyone can influence politics”, and most gratifyingly, in the IYTT “There are many ways to participate in politics … such as participating in the IYTT.” Though the the perception of national representative democracy among IYTT-engaged youth is less than uplifting, perhaps we can draw hope from an involvement on other levels, beyond the nation state. Does this mark the rise of a new cosmopolitan attitude to politics? We surely hope so.