In the context of a significant decline in political participation in Europe over the past 40 years, with 18-25 year olds particularly unlikely to vote, the EU’s Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency commissioned a report on youth participation in democratic life.
Researchers from the Departments of Government and Media and Communications investigated levels, types and attitudes towards different forms of participation across countries, age groups and socio-economic groups using a literature review, secondary data analysis, a seven-country survey, almost 80 interviews, 18 focus groups and a multinational experiment in e-voting and the use of social media.
They confirmed that youth are not apathetic about democracy, engaging with societal concerns through volunteering, protest, debate and social enterprise. However they are often unhappy with the political offer and disillusioned with politicians. The report’s recommendations include enabling voting for youth representatives before the age of 18, meeting hard-to reach groups face to face, providing funding for civic spaces and community media where debate can take place, supporting organisations facilitating volunteering and providing assistance with housing, training and employment for those most in need.
Social media should not substitute for face-to-face interaction with politicians wherever possible. Similarly, e-voting does not have the same impact for voters as attending a polling station and should be treated with caution.
The report concludes that there is no crisis of participation of European youth, but a huge opportunity that awaits taking.
Read the report