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EUYOUPART: Project Findings

Interest in politics

The majority of the interviewed youth is not very interested in politics (37% interested vs. 63% disinterested in total). The most interested youth live in Germany with 51%, whereas young people in the UK (30%), Estonia (29%) and Slovakia (28%) are least interested. Italy comes second with 43% closely followed by Austria with 42%, and France and Finland rank next with 36% and 35% respectively.

This study, however, gives rise to the hope that the young Europeans´ interest in politics might increase with their age. The overall majority believes that voting is the most effective form of political participation, and a comparatively high percentage also makes use of their right to vote.

More information: Presentation on main findings of EUYOUPART (pdf)

More trust in NGOs than in political institutions

Although the European youth shows little trust in political parties, many feel close to a certain party. NGOs seem most trustworthy to the youth. In all eight countries participating in this study, the young people said that it is NGOs like Greenpeace or Amnesty International that they trust most. Also, the European institutions (i.e. the European Parliament and the EU-Commission) enjoy more trust than the national institutions in the respective countries.

Politicians and parties at national level are least trusted, however, national parliament receives a trust bonus in all countries except Slovakia. Although their trust in parties is generally very low, a majority of the interviewed youth says they feel close to a certain party, especially in Italy (71%) and Finland (68%). Young Britons feel least attached (23%). The young people believe working for NGOs to be more effective than working for political parties.

Idealism and disillusionment

The term politics itself has a high polarizing potential. In all counties there exists a very idealistic view of politics: politics is seen as a way to solve international problems (68%) and/or to solve social problems (67%). 42% believe that politics are there to create a better world. On the other hand, politics is also associated with "empty promises" (46%), "corruption" (35%), and 30% believe politics to be an "old men´s game". These cynical views are, however, less persistent than the optimistic views mentioned above. Politics is generally seen as something positive. It is its realisation on the concrete level that sometimes leads to disillusionment.

Different perceptions of the future

Estonia´s youth is most optimistic what concerns their future: over 80% are expecting much better or at least better conditions than their parents´ generation. Finland, the UK and Slovakia also have a generally optimistic youth. The young French have an optimistic view on their job and income perspectives, but also fear a massive cutback on social security. The Italians are similarly polarised. Germany and Austria feature the most pessimistic outlooks on the future: Their youth generally expects to face a worse situation than their parents do now.

Factors that might motivate young people to participate

Three factors might motivate political participation:

  • Influence of school and education
  • Influence of the media
  • Influence of parents and friends

More information: Presentation on motivating factors for participation (pdf, ~ 500 KB)

Influence of school and education

Young people who make use of the established structures for political participation at school tend to be politically active outside school, too. The more active they are during school, the more active they are when they leave school. Using the existent opportunity structures at school fosters political participation. Somebody who for instance has been "speaker of the class" during school is more likely to support election campaigns as well.

Influence of the media

Between 11.3% (UK) and 38.4% (Italy) of the young Europeans report to be following politics in the mass media on a daily basis. Most of them do so via television. However, each participating country shows different predilections when it comes to media: In Germany, and even more so in Austria, radio still plays an influential role, whereas in Finland and in Estonia the prevailing source of information is the internet.
In France, Italy and Slovakia young people hardly use another media to inform themselves on politics than television, and in the UK a remarkable number of young people does not make use of any mass media for political information.
There is an interesting correlation between the choice of mass media and the respective individual´s political behaviour: those who inform themselves via active-reception media (i.e. newspapers, internet) tend to be more politically active, whereas those using passive-reception media (television, and to some extent also radio) show a lesser level in political participation.

Politicization in one´s personal environment

Only 20% of the interviewed youth said they had strongly politicized parents, and for only 16%, this holds also true for their friends. Nevertheless, the political family background is always decisive. The higher the level of parental politicization, the higher is also the level of politicization of their children. There is a similar relation to be observed concerning the level of politicization within the circle of friends and one´s own attitude. The parental socialisation seems to have more effect on political attitudes and ideological orientation of the individual, while their circle of friends has more influence on the individual´s political behaviour and political participation.

Political protest

Finally, there is to say that the youth have very polarised views on the prevalent political system, whereas their idealistic attitudes towards politics outhweigh their cynical ones by far. As a social and political form of expressing their opinion, political protest (i.e. demonstrations and strikes) are rather important for them. New social movements and new political organisations are well considered and are more attractive than the traditional ones.

Go to EUYOUPART Project Reports to find the Final Comparative Report.