Young people voted. They made their voices heard. In the 2019 European Parliament elections, the jump in turnout was driven by young voters; the largest increases in participation came from the under 25 and 25-39 age groups. So, will Europe listen?
The EU has managed to engage young voters, but can it keep them engaged? If young people feel ignored or neglected by policymakers, they may feel their vote was wasted. Will European politicians finally prioritise young people and the issues they care about?
What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Macro arguing that young people do care about politics, but they are disheartened by the fact they are constantly ignored by politicians. Is he right?
To get a response, we asked Damian Boeselager, who was recently elected to the European Parliament with the pan-European party Volt Europa. What would he say to Macro?
For another perspective, we also asked Bobby Duffy, Professor of Public Policy and Director of the Policy Institute at King’s College London. How would he respond?
There is something called the democratic deficit which effectively means because young people vote less in elections in most countries they are worth less to politicians, in terms of: you’ve got a choice of policies and the focus is on older groups, particularly a baby boomer generation who are large demographically already so there is a lot of baby boomers and they vote a lot. You’ve got a younger group who are fewer in number and also vote less and are going to be less reflected in the priorities. That’s the nature of politics.
I think one of the other big themes of my forthcoming book on generational difference is that this is reflected in economics as well. There is very strong evidence that young people, particularly the millennials and gen z cohorts that came through during and post the 2008 recession, were hit economically much harder than other groups. Partly just because they were starting out in their careers so they are very unlucky in that. So, they haven’t had enough support. The interesting thing, in some ways, is why are young people of this particular cohort not more angry and not more active in pushing their own agenda? And I think there is something in this that the system in some ways protects itself because young people have grown up with less help in the past couple of decades, with less support, less money spent by governments on things that support them. Quite often, not in all countries, but quite often.
Which means, actually, they take a lot more personal responsibility than looking to government and politicians to sort things out for them. They are arguably blaming politics and the government less than they should be because they feel a personal responsibility for how they get on themselves. A long trend in growing individualism, where we see ourselves more as individuals, more picking and choosing, means in that in some ways we hold ourselves responsible for whether we succeed or fail. When, actually, quite a lot of the time, it is much more the economic and political context that determines whether we are going to succeed or fail…
Do politicians listen to young people? Or are millennials outnumbered (and out-voted) by older generations, meaning politicians have fewer incentives to address the issues they care about? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!