votingWhy don’t more young people vote? Despite a healthy 61.99% of people casting their vote in the first European Parliament elections in 1979, voter turnout has declined in each subsequent election and has been consistently below 50% since 1999. This trend isn’t just at the European level, though, with voter participation similarly in a slow downward trajectory for national and local elections. And, in many European countries, young people are among the least likely to vote. Do they feel let down and betrayed by politicians? Are they confused by politics and unsure who to vote for? Or are they just lazy?

What about YOU? Have you registered to vote in the European Parliament elections next month? Do you know who you’ll vote for? Don’t forget to support the party you want to win in our Debating Europe Vote 2014!

In the run-up to next month’s elections, we interviewed the presidents of the youth wings of some of the largest European political parties. We started by asking them if they thought young people were disinterested in politics, and what their party intended to do to encourage young people to get out and vote.

First up, we spoke to Kostas Kyranakis, the president of the  Centre-Right‘s youth wing – the Youth of the European People’s Party. He argued that the problem was that EU politics is just too complicated, and not enough young people understand how it works. His solution was to fight for a simpler decision-making process in the European Union:

Next, we spoke to Kaisa Penny, the president of the  Social Democrats‘s youth wing – the Young European Socialists. She said that young people do care about things that affect them – education, public services, etc. – but they are not interested in the current political parties. Penny believes that many young people feel let down by politics, and she hopes that her party’s commitment to elect more young MEPs and pledge greater investment to tackle youth unemployment should help win over young voters.

Next up was Jeroen Diepemaat, the President of the European Liberal Youth – the youth wing of the  Liberal Democrats. He argued that politics isn’t always guaranteed to be interesting, but the challenge is to make young people understand that it’s nevertheless vitally important.

We also spoke to Michael Bloss, co-spokesperson of the  Greens‘ youth wing – the Federation for the Young European Greens. He said that the main reason young people are disenchanted with politics is because they don’t see anything changing. Hundreds of thousands of young people go out and demonstrate on the streets, he says, but nothing is done to address their concerns. Bloss believes the policies of austerity need to come to and end in order to show young people that change is possible.

A different suggestion, however, was put forward by Tim Dier, who is the Chairman of the European Young Conservatives – the youth wing of the  Conservatives. He argued that low voter turnout is a sign people are rejecting the EU and don’t agree with what he sees as the pro-federalist ideologies of the main political parties. He points to the candidates for the Presidency of the European Commission, which he argues are all 1950s-style federalists who believe in ideas that are completely alien to most voters (and if you want to hear what the candidates believe, the first “Presidential Debate” is live tonight at 19:00 CET here – with the Twitter tag #EUdebate2014).

Will YOU be voting in next month’s European elections? Do YOU think young Europeans are disinterested in politics? How can political parties get disenchanted young voters to the polling stations? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions!

Vote 2014

Voting is closed in our Debating Europe Vote 2014! The results are now in, so come and see what our readers thought!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Adam Scotti

23 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

    • avatar

      EXACTLY, once every 4 years or so there is a election and they call this democracy and freedom, well lets take a look at this democracy and freedom, a politician who you dont know shows up and makes promises to get your vote, you vote for him and he gets elected, then he goes to Paris,London,Brussels etc. and he forgets you, and he breaks his promises, now how can that be democracy?!?, real democracy is supposed to be the will of the people, I am Swiss and I can tell you all that in my country politicians know to respect the will of the people because we have a mix of executive, representative and direct democracy(e.g Referendum,Intiative), Swiss dont beg politicians for anything! If we think that a law passed by our parliament is wrong then we can call a referendum and remove this law, thats real democracy and freedom in action, another very important aspect of direct democracy is the initiative rights, a initiative is important because it gives citizens the democratic means to bring a matter which they consider to be important to a vote, lets not forget that politicians often dont touch issues because they fear loosing reelection, so having the initiative rights is vital. If you want people to vote you must have a system where a vote can actually create change. Ofcourse even the Swiss system is not perfect, none is, but im convinced its better than most because atleast the people can have a say in their future.

  1. avatar
    Stefanescu Dan

    trebuiesc reprezenta?i de al?i tineri care s? le reprezinte interesele ! Ce vor tinerii : s? lucreze (nu mai mult de 10 ore/zi ,s? c?tige bani, s? fie independen?i de p?rin?i , s? ?i cumpere case ?i s? duc? o via?? decent? ! Pot s?i reprezint eu ! eu ?tiu ce au nevoie ?i pot s?i reprezint , al?ii nici nu ?tiu nici nu i intereseaz? ! candidez ! Mai trebuiesc m?car Eu ori 99 ?i rezolv?m!

  2. avatar
    Carlos Echaide Gorriz

    Anyway voting is important, you as a person can do a few things. I don’t know in other countries, but in Spain some people are starting to move in politics, I have found an amount of them that think more or less like me, they are young and they want to change some things. What I can do is participate in what the are making for becoming more known and try to show it in my Facebook profile, for example. And of course vote for them. And I will vote

  3. avatar

    Young people tend to be less naïve, and know how misused their vote can be. They don’t believe in politicians, whose communication strategies seem ironic to them. They would like to vote for ideas, but they only see discourses… Its not the young who are not interested in politics. It’s politics, which is uninterested of the society.

  4. avatar

    The answer should be looked for in every broken electoral promise, in any political lie and any hypocrisy. Who want to make the same mistake twice? People just feel misrepresented at the decision level of big politics. The gap between politicians and people (youngsters included) is getting bigger. There is reciprocal mistrust.

  5. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    they have just given up..they don’t think they can make a any difference..and that is dangerous in a democracy…our leaders have succeeded in creating an apathetic mass of citizens…

  6. avatar
    Ady Paslaru

    Can we vote on Facebook/Online, everyday? That because everyday somethinghs changed!

  7. avatar
    Alex Tselentis

    Total overhaul is whats needed for people to feel they matter, when unelcted bankers in Brussels decide everyones fate, who safegaurd the guilty, and punish the Public masses for the corruption of their servant Politicians, no one enjoys feeling like a number.

  8. avatar
    Sophia-Maria Prentou

    Of course they are not lazy! I think that a terrible thing to say for our generation… I believe that they are frustrated by their politicians and their incosistency between words and actions. While politics is the art of debating and persuading, young Europeans seem to mistrust politics and governments… Though I cannot say they are completely wrong

  9. avatar
    Pauline Kastermans

    In my opinion Europe should be given back to the young people. The European Parliament is the only democratically elected institution, but still currently only has 2 representatives under 30. How can you expect young people to vote for mainly men that grew up in a world where their job security was much higher and at the same time expected to receive a life-long contract? In my opinion, young people should be heard in Europe, therefore it is important to vote as a young person, for a party that takes youth seriously and that focuses on education, innovation and sustainable economic growth. Prepared to take responsibility for a Europe that works, that does not invest in the policies of yesterday but are looking forward and be prepared for the challenges of tomorrow.

  10. avatar

    It is not just the young people problem. Can anyone explain the growing abstention in european elections when the European Parliament has increased over the years the capacity of decision and higher interference in the life of European citizens? This paradox should be analyzed by all party forces.

  11. avatar
    Richard Osborne

    I don’t think they’re lazy or uninterested. I think the constant broken promises and the reckless spending of the e.u. has destroyed their faith

  12. avatar
    Paul X

    Because the EU does not represent the wishes of the majority of the people..and no matter who you vote for that will never change…….the EU is so convinced it is always right and there is no way the people can redress anything it does. Never was an institution further from democracy

  13. avatar

    In youngsters view on politicians is like “they don’t talk the talk and walk the walk”. Politicians are caught way too much in so called political correctness and bureaucratic procedures to see what people really want or what is expected from them as defenders of certain groups interests. The paradox here is that the more money are throw away for different “youth program”, the more complex and multiple problems occur. Signs that shows clearly that only the effects are on politicians focus and not the true cause. I know quite few politicians that make careers and get rich from effects treatment.

  14. avatar

    One thing that could be done is to have more Young politicians in the field, otherwise their voices are not Heard. Why are so few politians under 30 at Parliament? I would like to know what are europeans parties waiting for, To live to the backs of the citizens? It would be very interesting to hear Young candidates at these elections!

  15. avatar
    eusebio manuel vestias pecurto

    Os jovens da Europa estão a cultivar o futuro da Europa de Paz e onde todos os europeus possam viver bem

  16. avatar
    Jennifer Guerra

    I’m Italian and in my country it’s really evident how young people are lazy mostly because adults are disenchanted with politics. During discussions I always hear statements like “I hate politics” or “All politicians are the same”, but the point is that these people actually don’t know anything about history or politics! In particular, few people know about EU and its function, both because school doesn’t teach these things and because they are just too lazy to update themselves.
    The most important thing now is to make young people interested in politics and voting, as this is the primary achievement in democracy

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