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Youth political participation in the EU: evidence from a cross-national analysis


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Youth political disengagement continues to be a major issue facing contemporary democracies that needs to be better understood. There is an existing literature on what determines youth participation in terms of socio-demographic factors, however, scholars have not given much consideration to the macro-level determinants. In this paper, I outline an empirical analysis of what determines political participation among young people using the Eurobarometer 375 survey data from 28 European Union countries. I argue that while socio-demographic factors are crucial for youth political participation, context matters in shaping levels of political participation among young people. The results from the logistic regression analyses indicate that democratic maturity influences patterns of political participation among young people in the EU. The results show that youth engagement in different modes of political participation varies significantly across distinctive democracies, where individuals situated in established EU democracies are more likely to be politically active. The findings raise fresh concerns about existing levels of young people’s engagement in politics in advanced and new democracies. This paper also contributes to the comparative research on young people’s participation in politics.
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Journal of Youth Studies
ISSN: 1367-6261 (Print) 1469-9680 (Online) Journal homepage:
Youth political participation in the EU: evidence
from a cross-national analysis
Magdelina Kitanova
To cite this article: Magdelina Kitanova (2019): Youth political participation in the EU: evidence
from a cross-national analysis, Journal of Youth Studies, DOI: 10.1080/13676261.2019.1636951
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© 2019 The Author(s). Published by Informa
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Youth political participation in the EU: evidence from a
cross-national analysis
Magdelina Kitanova
Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
Youth political disengagement continues to be a major issue facing
contemporary democracies that needs to be better understood.
There is an existing literature on what determines youth
participation in terms of socio-demographic factors, however,
scholars have not given much consideration to the macro-level
determinants. In this paper, I outline an empirical analysis of what
determines political participation among young people using the
Eurobarometer 375 survey data from 28 European Union
countries. I argue that while socio-demographic factors are crucial
for youth political participation, context matters in shaping levels
of political participation among young people. The results from
the logistic regression analyses indicate that democratic maturity
inuences patterns of political participation among young people
in the EU. The results show that youth engagement in dierent
modes of political participation varies signicantly across
distinctive democracies, where individuals situated in established
EU democracies are more likely to be politically active. The
ndings raise fresh concerns about existing levels of young
peoples engagement in politics in advanced and new
democracies. This paper also contributes to the comparative
research on young peoples participation in politics.
Received 18 October 2018
Accepted 20 June 2019
Political participation; young
people; political behaviour;
Europe; comparative politics;
Participation in political activities is in crisis, especially when it comes to young people, and
this is a major issue facing contemporary democracies (Norris 2003; Hay 2007; Farthing
2010; Furlong and Cartmel 2012; Henn and Foard 2012). This is a vital challenge that is
re-shaping electoral politics and the relationship between citizens and political parties.
Generation Y seems to have lower levels of political engagement when it comes to parti-
cipating in traditional forms of politics such as voting and being a member of a political
party, compared to older generations (Mycock and Tonge 2012). Youth are perceived as
increasingly disengaged and disconnected from traditional political processes in Europe,
especially when it comes to voting (European Commission 2001). Moreover, young
people are not only disengaged but they might be apathetic and/or alienated from the
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CONTACT Magdelina Kitanova
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traditional forms of politics (Stoker 2006; Hay 2007). It is expected that there are variations
in levels of political engagement across Europe (Ministry of Justice 2007), which is tested in
this paper, when it comes to young people. The paper contributes to youth engagement
literature by conducting empirical research investigating determinants of young peoples
political participation by conceptualising age of democracy.
In recent decades, there has been a decline in levels of political engagement in most
European Union countries (Pharr and Putnam 2000; Torcal and Montero 2006; Norris
2011; Papadopoulos 2013; Allen and Birch 2015). Youth are regarded as one of the
most disengaged groups in politics, with the lowest levels of turnout compared to any
other age group in elections. The 2017 Bulgarian Parliamentary Election is an exact
example, with young peoples turnout being only 14.9% (Gallup International 2017). On
the contrary, in the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014 when 16 and 17-year-
olds were given the right to vote, 89% of all citizens aged 1617 in Scotland registered
to vote, which indicates an exceptional case. Results from an EU funded MYPLACE
survey in 14 European countries revealed that 42% of respondents aged 1624 reported
to have interest in politics (Tatalovic 2015). Young people have interest in politics and are
often inuenced by single-issued politics (Mort 1990; Wilkinson and Mulgan 1995; Henn
and Foard 2012). However, having interest in politics would not necessarily translates
into votes.
A research area that requires better theorising and empirical research is what are the
explanatory factors of youth political engagement in Europe, especially dierentiating
between a diverse range of political activities. Therefore, the research question addressed
in this paper is: What determines political participation among young people in the EU? My
conceptualisation of political participation denes the term as any lawful activities under-
taken by citizens that will or aim at inuencing, changing or aecting the government,
public policies, or how institutions are run (adopted from Verba and Ni 1972; Van Deth
I address the variations of levels of youth political participation across Europe by ana-
lysing the Eurobarometer survey dataset (No. 375 2013) on young people aged 1530
from 28 EU countries. I apply logistic regression analyses of socio-demographic and con-
textual factors to a range of political activities controlling for countries to establish
relationships and dierences between age groups. I argue that the age of democracy
fundamentally conditions the way young people participate in politics. The analyses
reveal that while social and educational factors (at individual-level) matter, democratic
maturity accounts for patterns of political participation among young people in the
EU. I close by discussing the variations within EU countries and the most distinctive
dierences in levels of youth participation in formal political participation versus organ-
isational membership.
Young peoples participation in politics
A great deal of previous research into political participation has focused mainly on voting
as a political activity exercised by the citizens (Lazarsfeld, Berelson, and Gaudet 1948;
Campbell et al. 1960). Consequently, political participation became more than just the tra-
ditional political activities such as voting. It adopted a diverse range of activities such as
people being members of dierent organisations, participating in cultural organisations
or activities, signing petitions, contacting politicians, protesting, etc (Verba, Nie, and Kim
1978; Barnes and Kaase 1979; Van Deth 2001; Bourne 2010). A rened denition of the
term was developed in later years and included actions or activities that are directed
towards inuencing political outcomes (Teorell, Torcal, and Montero 2007).
With the changing nature of political actions, new forms of political participation started
emerging and it is claimed that youth engage more in politics through new types of pol-
itical activities, as young people nowadays are very dierent from their parentsgeneration
(Norris 2003; Spannring, Ogris, and Gaiser 2008; Kestilä-Kekkonen 2009; Sloam 2016).
However, Grasso (2014) analyses that todays youth is the least politically engaged gener-
ation when it comes to formal and informal political participation. In addition, Millennials
seem to be a uniquegeneration, disengaged from any form of political participation (Fox
There is a debate about youth political participation falling in crisis (Putnam 2000;
Stoker 2006; Fieldhouse, Tranmer, and Russell 2007). Many studies reveal that there is a
tremendous and worrying decline in levels of youth participation in politics, especially
when it comes to voting. Yet, some of the recent studies argue that young people are
not apathetic and disengaged, but they have instead turned to alternative forms of politi-
cal engagement such as protesting, demonstrating, being part of organisations, signing
petitions, volunteering, and engaging online (Norris 2003; Spannring, Ogris, and Gaiser
2008; Sloam 2016). Others found that young people are equally disengaged from
formal and informal political participation (Grasso 2014; Fox 2015).
Young people are often seen as disengaged, alienated, and/or apathetic when it comes
to political engagement. There is tremendous value in repeated studies on youth disen-
gagement in single countries. The British Social Attitudes report (Ormston and Curtice
2015) revealed an important nding related to declining youth turnout: in 2013 only
57% of the respondents felt that they have the duty to vote, compared to 76% in 1987.
It is clear that there is a long-term decline in young peoples involvement in elections in
most of the European Union countries (OToole, Marsh, and Jones 2003). These results
are in sync with the conventional wisdom that youth are disengaged from the political
system (Wring, Henn and Weinsten 1999).
Norris (2002;2003) highlights active youth engagement with respect to alternative
forms of political participation and supports the recent theoretical claim that young
people are not ebbed away in apathy, however they are choosing other forms of politics
that are not traditional and seem more meaningful to them (Spannring, Ogris, and Gaiser
2008; Sloam 2013). One organising idea is that young people feel excluded from the tra-
ditional political system (OToole, Marsh, and Jones 2003) resulting in recent changes in
the way they engage in politics (Harris, Wyn, and Younes 2010; Henn and Foard 2012;
Sloam 2013). It is the conventional wisdom that young people are less likely to vote
than adults, and young people are less engaged with political parties and organisations
(Tilley 2003; Mycock and Tonge 2012).
Despite the growing interest in youth political participation, relatively little scholarly
attention has been paid to existing dierences in the levels of youth participation
across countries (Norris 2003; Spannring, Ogris, and Gaiser 2008; Dalton 2009; Sloam
2013;2016). This paper addresses such gaps in the literature and analyses the eect of
age of democracy on youth participation. When studying determinants of political partici-
pation, research should take into account not only individual-level characteristics, but also
contextual ones as distinctions in contextual settings can have a direct and diverse impact
on political participation, especially when it comes to comparative research.
Formal political participation is dened as activities related to traditional forms of par-
ticipation such as voting, being a member of a party, and campaigning (Verba and Ni 1972;
Inglehart 1990; Mair 2006). This represents the older studiesperspectives on political par-
ticipation and thus assumes that there should be no inclusion of the newly established
concepts of participation. Political participation became more than just the traditional pol-
itical activities such as voting (Ekman and Amnå 2012). In the past, the traditionalform of
political participation was seen as the superior one consisting of voting and being a
member of a political party. Whereas, recently, it consists of diverse activities such as
people being members of political parties or dierent organisations, participating in a cul-
tural organisation or activities (Bourne 2010).
This paper is about organisational member-
ship as a subset of non-traditional participation. For the purpose of this paper and due to
data availability, in terms of formalpolitical activity, I analyse voting and being a member
of a political party; and I also analyse organisational membership, which refers to being a
member of dierent organisations.
The role of socio-demographic characteristic is widely acknowledged (Verba, Schloz-
man, and Brady 1995; Stolle and Hooghe 2009; Vecchione and Caprara 2009; Cainzos
and Voces 2010). The predominant view in the literature is that social class and educational
history appear to be crucial predictors of political engagement (Tenn 2007; Sloam 2012;
Holmes and Manning 2013). Especially when it comes to youth participation in politics,
education and social class have most bearing on levels of youth political engagement
(Henn and Foard 2014), where the length of time a person has been in full-time education
has a crucial impact on their political participation (Flanagan et al. 2012).
Conceptualising age of democracy
The idea that contextual factors can cause dierences in youth participation has been
studied in recent years (Fieldhouse, Tranmer, and Russell 2007; Grimm and Pilkington
2015; Soler-i-Marti and Ferrer-Fons 2015; Sloam 2016). Political context matters when it
comes to engagement in politics (Grasso 2016) and it is plausible to suggest that
growing up in a certain context and environment would shape young peoples political
engagement depending on their cultural settings (Snell 2010). Therefore, it is important
to contextualise young peoples politics (Torney-Purta 2009) and the main expectation
of this paper is that there are potential dierences in terms of levels of youth political par-
ticipation when it comes to age of democracy. Conceptualising age of democracy contrib-
utes to the existing literature on determinants of political participation, and provides a
new theoretical and empirical contribution to the inuencers of youth political
All countries analysed in this paper are EU democracies, however, I expect there to be
dierences in levels of youth political participation across countries. There is a conven-
tional wisdom that long-established democracies have relatively stable levels of political
participation, with individual turnout being quite high. On the other hand, there are
countries that have gone through the transition to democracies not that long ago. Such
countries would have dierent political characteristics and historical trajectories to
advanced democracies. The seminal study of Almond and Verba (1963) report that a set
of political orientations foster democratic stability. Their study also concluded that a large
number of citizens in the U.K. and the U.S. believe that they have high levels of obligation
to participation. Whereas, Germans, Italians and Mexicans do not necessarily have the
same extent of obligation to participation. It is evident from their study that the norm
of being an active citizen in a society is prevalent among advanced democratic countries
such as the U.K. and the U.S. These norms together with existing opportunities to partici-
pate in a country could underline and account for high levels of political participation in
one country and the low levels of participation in another. For instance, in countries such
as Italy
or any newly developed democracy, there is a lack of opportunity to participate
and there is a lack of existing norms in that society. Similar to the U.K. and the U.S., citizens
in advanced democracies are motivated by the norms and political opportunities in their
country to participate in politics. I argue therefore that citizens in advanced democracies
have a sense of obligation to be active in the political life of their country, and the oppor-
tunities to participate in politics are higher in advanced democracies.
Almond and Verba (1963) report that there are existing dierences across contrasting
educational groups in the same countries, and across similar educational groups in distinc-
tive countries. Therefore, I expect that youth political participation varies across countries,
thus a person from country A with socio-demographic characteristics A1 A2 and A3 might
actively participate in formal politics, however, a person from country B with the same
socio-demographic characteristics might be actively engaged in alternative activities
and totally disengaged from the traditional forms of political participation.
The literature oers a mixed set of explanations about youth engagement in politics. On
one hand, one would expect young people to be disengaged and alienated from tra-
ditional forms of politics. On the other hand, existing arguments present that not only
are young people disengaged from traditional forms of politics but from politics in
general. My expectation is summarised in the following hypothesis:
H1: Younger citizens engage more with organisational membership than with formal
Age of democracy has been discussed for a long time (Lipset 1959; Almond and Verba
1963;1989; Converse 1969;Inglehart1988). A recent study by Nový and Katrnak (2015)ana-
lyses the inuence of democratic maturity on the propensity of citizens to vote by exploring
27 countries, nding that individuals in long-established democracies are more likely to vote.
The conventional wisdom is that advanced democracies have greater levels of political par-
ticipation (Barnes 2004;BernhagenandMarsh2007;KarpandMilazzo2015), and this is
tested in this paper. Lack of political activity is more likely to be apparent in countries
that are newly democratised. Democratic maturity presents the individuals with conditions
that shape their choice to participate or not participate in politics, and how to participate. I
argue that age of democracy has a direct impact on the propensity of young individuals to
engage in politics but it also acts as an amplier. The historical context of newly established
post-Communist countries and advanced democracies has a potential inuence on the pol-
itical behaviour of individuals situated in these countries.
The long-term functioning of democratic institutions gradually creates a democratic
political culture (Mishler and Rose 2001). Through the democratic experience in a
country, individuals develop loyalty and certain habits (Jackman and Miller 2004).
Countries with similar historical trajectories will have similarities to the process of how a
young person goes through life and develops their political beliefs and behaviour. In
post-communist countries, the democratic experience is new, therefore, there would not
be necessary developed habits of voting. In new democracies, historically there is high
level of state centralisation, low levels of freedom, and not automatically examples in
the family how to engage in political participation. Therefore, I hypothesise that:
H2: Young people are more engaged in politics in advanced democracies compared to new
On the expectation that people are more engaged in traditional forms of politics in
advanced democracies than in newly established democracies, here I test if this expec-
tation still holds when analysing organisational membership. The expectation is that
due to numerous institutional dierences between advanced and new democracies,
young people are more inclined to participate in politics if they are situated in an
advanced democracy. Therefore, I expect that in advanced democracies, young people
are more active in alternative forms of political participation compared to newly estab-
lished democracies. I, therefore, propose the following hypothesis:
H3: Young people are more engaged with organisational membership in advanced democra-
cies compared to new democracies.
Researchers have typically analysed youth participation on a national level. There are
expectations that participation varies between individual countries and between a
diverse range of political activities. However, prior studies of youth participation say
little about the potential dierences across countries. Therefore, my novel theoretical
and empirical contribution is that while social and educational factors (at individual-
level) matter, age of democracy inuences patterns of political participation among
young people in the EU.
Data and methods
This paper draws on data from the Eurobarometer (No. 375 2013) comparative survey on
youth engagement: a dataset consisting of 13,427 respondents across 27 members of the
European Union (EU) countries and Croatia,
allowing for a cross-national comparison of
young peoples contextual predictors of political engagement. The survey aims to
analyse young EU citizensparticipation in society, organisations, political parties, and par-
ticipation in elections at local, regional and national level. The Eurobarometer 375 dataset
contains only young respondents, which is the targeted age group for my paper, consist-
ing only of participants aged 1530. It is crucial to acknowledge that some of these respon-
dents are not eligible to engage in formal participation; therefore, the observations for 15
were dropped from the dataset, making the sample 11,213 respondents. It is
important to note that a limitation of the data is that it does not represent the full popu-
lation. However, the data allows comparing how people dier in terms of diverse age
groups and compare and contrast, for instance, 18-year-olds with 30-year-olds.
Dependent and independent variables
The existing secondary data from the Eurobarometer 375 survey is used as diverse ques-
tions were asked related to young peoples individual characteristics and their
participation in politics, allowing me to grasp whether or not their contextual character-
istics are potential determinants of political engagement.
Dependent variables
The Eurobarometer survey asked about young peoples participation in a range of political
activities. The dependent variables used in my analysis derive from several questions as
presented in Table 1. To assess and test my hypotheses, I constructed two dependent vari-
ables accounting for the two modes of political participation that the data allows me to
analyse in this paper: formal participation and organisational membership. Here, I
analyse membership of a range of social and civic organisations, where I treat organis-
ational membershipas another dependent variable. I constructed an additional variable
that accounts for youth political participation in general, which allows testing the
overall patterns of youth political participation. All dependent variables were derived
using a binary measure of whether or not someone had participated in a particular activity
from the Eurobarometer 375 questionnaire (see Table 1). The dependent variable formal
political participation reects whether a person has participated in traditional political
activities, meaning if they have voted or are a member of a political party. Respectively,
the dependent variable organisational membership refers to engagement with dierent
organisations as presented in Table 1. The additional dependent variable general political
participation accounts for whether or not overall participation varies across countries and it
is derived using the two initial dependent variables.
Independent variables
Socio-demographic characteristics are considered as important explanatory variables for
political engagement (Tenn 2007; Flanagan et al. 2012; Furlong and Cartmel 2012;
Holmes and Manning 2013; Henn and Foard 2014). I contribute to the literature by
oering conclusions on the role of socio-demographic factors in structuring youth political
participation when it comes to a range of political engagement.
The Eurobarometer (375 2013) provides demographic measures for the respondents
through a set of socio-demographic questions including age, gender, education, and
current occupational status of the respondents. Age is coded as a categorical variable to
dierentiate between respondents aged 1824 and respondents aged 2530. Gender is
Table 1. Coding for dependent variables (Eurobarometer 375 2013).
Derived dependent variables: Original indicators:
Formal political participation Has voted in past three years
Has participated in a political party
Organisational membership Has participated in:
Community organisation
Youth club, leisure-time club or any kind of youth organisation
A cultural organisation
A local organisation aimed at improving your local community
An organisation active in the domain of climate change/environmental issues
An organisation promoting human rights or global development
Any other non-governmental organisation
General political participation Has participated in:
Formal political participation
Organisational membership
coded as a dichotomous variable where 1 is a male respondent, and the reference cat-
egory is a female respondent. Education is a categorical variable with categories reecting
the individualseducation status. Social class is a categorical variable and includes values
for lower class, middle class, higher class, respondents who are not working, and respon-
dents who are still in education.
The data for this variable was mapped with the National
Statistics Socio-economic Classication Analytic classes and the ABC1 demographic
classications in the U.K. It is important to acknowledge that there is no income question,
which prohibits the use of an income measure in the analysis. However, with age, edu-
cation and social class included in the analysis, the lack of income measure does not con-
stitute a signicant issue for the purpose of this paper.
In order to test for the eect of age of democracy on the propensity of young individuals to
participate in politics,I include a variable that distinguishes between countries that are newly
established and advanced democracies. This allows testing whether age of democracy is inu-
ential when it comes to the propensity of young individuals to participate in politics in EU
countries. Following Huntington (1991), Muhlberger and Paine (1993) and Dunn (2005),
new democracies were identied as countries that became democratic post-1988, which
includes 11 countries.
Advanced democracies are considered EU countries that became
democracies post-1945 and pre-1988, which includes 17 countries. In the literature, countries
classied as emerging democracies in Europe in 1970 (Portugal and Spain) are classied as
established ones for the purpose of this paper. Here, I test the assumption that youth political
participation varies within dierent ages of democracies and across individual countries.
To determine what shapes youth political engagement, and to identify the crucial expla-
natory factors associated with it, a logistic regression is applied. I argue that both micro-
and macro-level factors matter and inuence levels of political participation among
young people. The existing literature suggests that socio-demographic factors such as
gender, age, education and social class have an impact on individualspolitical partici-
pation (Verba, Schlozman, and Brady 1995; Stolle and Hooghe 2009; Cainzos and Voces
2010; Henn and Foard 2014). The logistic regression analyses applied here to test
whether or not these theoretical claims hold in regard to the Eurobarometer 375 survey
data. This paper suggests that there is a signicant positive relationship between contex-
tual factors and young peoples political participation. I also assess whether or not there
are dierences in the explanatory factors of young peoples participation in politics
when it comes to a range of political activities (Lieberman 2005).
Young peoples engagement in politics in the EU
Figure 1 illustrates levels of youth political participation across countries (Eurobarometer
375 2013) and reveals that overall youth political participation varies across countries
(see Figure 1).
Although the descriptive analysis shows that levels of youth participation varies across
countries, it is important to analyse if this pertains to engagement in traditional modes of
politics only, as numerous authors have claimed that Generation Y are not apathetic but
have orientated towards new forms of political engagement (Norris 2003; Spannring,
Ogris, and Gaiser 2008; Sloam 2013). In this paper, logistic regression is applied to inves-
tigate the dierences between the two modes of political engagement and explains why
some individuals are more politically engaged than others by looking at micro- and macro-
level factors as determinants of political engagement.
Firstly, I analyse political participation as a function of age only. There are variations in
young peoples political engagement depending on their age and as seen in Figure 2, the
results indicate that individuals aged 1824 are more likely to be a member of an organ-
isation than individuals aged 2530 (58% compared to 49%). Not surprisingly, the respon-
dents aged 2530 engage more in formal politics than respondents aged 1824 (78%
compared to 63%).
Socio-demographic factors determining youth political engagement
In line with earlier studies (Verba, Schlozman, and Brady 1995; Stolle and Hooghe 2009;
Vecchione and Caprara 2009; Cainzos and Voces 2010), a common trend that emerges
from the analysis is that socio-demographic factors are important predictors of political
engagement with important dierences between and within age groups when it comes
to diverse forms of political engagement. Therefore, I rst t a regression model only
with age as a predictor.
As Table 2 shows, the results from the regression model with ageas a predictor of
youth political engagement are statistically signicant and suggest that respondents
aged 2530 are two times as likely to participate in formal political activities than
Figure 1. Levels of youth political participation across EU countries (Eurobarometer 375 2013).
people aged 1824. On the other hand, the odds of being a member of an organisation for
respondents aged 2530 are 20% lower than the odds for respondents aged 1824. Age
signicantly associates with higher levels of participation in traditional political activities.
Table 2 suggests that there is an inverse relationship between age and organisational
membership and indicates that as a respondent gets older, the odds of them being
members of organisations decreases. In other words, the younger a person is, the more
likely they are to be members of organisations, which conrms H1. Even if I expand the
analysis of organisational membership to include respondents aged 1517, the pattern
remains the same (see supplemental material Appendix C
Table 3 presents the logistic regression model with socio-demographic characteristics
as predictors. The results for general political participation, formal political participation,
and organisational membership are presented in Model 1, Model 2 and Model 3
respectively. In all of the regression models, I control for country-xed eects. The
results for each country are presented in the supplemental material (see supplemental
material Appendix A).
The results from the regression analyses show that both education and social class have
a positive and signicant eect on the propensity of young individuals to participate in
politics, as seen in Table 3. These results are consistent with previous studies (Tenn
2007; Sloam 2012; Holmes and Manning 2013; Henn and Foard 2014). Education as a pre-
dictor is statistically signicant (p< 0.01) for youth political participation. The results show
Figure 2. Proportion of respondents from dierent age group participating in formal politics compared
to being members of organisations (Eurobarometer 375 2013).
Table 2. Results from the logistic regression models of the propensity of young individuals to engage
in politics with age a control variable: Formal political participation and organisational membership.
Variable Formal political participation Organisational membership
Age (1824) Reference Reference
Aged 2530 2.018** 0.796**
Note: Logistic regression **p< 0.01 (Eurobarometer 375 2013).
that having left education at 19 or above lead to an increase of two times in the odds of
participating in formal political activities, compared to respondents who left school at
18 or younger. When comparing these ndings with the results for organisational
membership, Model 3 suggests that the odds for respondents who have left education
at 19 or above to be a member of organisation are 45% higher than the odds for respon-
dents who left education at 18 or below. Moreover, the odds for a person who is still in
education to be involved with an organisation are 50% higher than the odds of a respon-
dent who left school at 18 or above. The analysis of the Eurobarometer data using logistic
regression, as reported in Table 3, reveals that there are statistically signicant variations in
the eects of social class at the 1% level (p< 0.01). Respondents from higher social class
are about half as likely to engage in any form of participation than their counterparts
from a lower social class. Gender is also a positive signicant predictor of political
Young peoples contextual predictor of political engagement in EU democracies
For the purpose of this paper, each of the 28 EU countries from the dataset was classied
as either newly established or advanced democracy, where democracies established
before 1988 were classied as advancedand the post-communist countries were
coded as new. To test whether democratic maturity is a signicant inuencer of youth
participation in politics, a new variable age of democracy accounting for countriesdemo-
cratic age was included in the regression model. The model suggests that participation is
dened as a function of age and other socio-demographic predictors plus age of democ-
racy, controlling for countries.
The eect of age of democracy on youth engagement is
presented in Table 4. Full regression analysis is available in the supplemental material (sup-
plemental material Appendix B).
The results from Table 4 indicate that age of democracy is a crucial predictor of youth
participation across EU countries. In line with current existing literature on democratic
Table 3. Results from the logistic regression models of the propensity of young individuals to engage
in politics with socio-demographic characteristics only: Model 1 (general political participation), Model
2 (formal political participation), and Model 3 (organisational membership).
Variables (reference category)
Model 1 Model 2 Model 3
General political
Formal political
Age (1824)
Aged 2530 1.487** (0.091) 1.886** (0.097) 0.968 (0.046)
Gender (female)
Male 1.214** (0.065) 0.975 (0.043) 1.483** (0.061)
Education (left education at 18 or before)
Left education at 19 or
2.001** (0.159) 2.038** (0.145) 1.446** (0.100)
Still in education 2.001** (0.159) 1.790** (0.175) 2.052** (0.194)
Current social status (lower social class)
Middle social class 1.152 (0.098) 1.325** (0.095) 1.115 (0.071)
Higher social class 1.513** (0.173) 1.596** (0.150) 1.507** (0.120)
Still in education 1.082 (0.120) 0.986 (0.088) 1.191* (0.101)
Not working 0.805** (0.067) 0.881 (0.064) 0.772** (0.052)
Number of individuals 11,213 11,213 11,213
Number of countries 27 27 27
Note: Logistic regression (odds ratios and standard errors) *p< 0.05 **p< 0.01 (Eurobarometer 375 2013).
maturity as a predictor of political participation (Nový and Katrnak 2015), the results of the
regression models featuring age of democracy, suggest that political engagement among
young people varies within dierent age of democracy. The odds for young Europeans
who live in a newly established democracy to be politically engaged are 27% lower
than the odds for young citizens in established democracies and this is statistically signi-
cant. Tellingly, this characterisation supports the ndings from earlier studies that partici-
pation is lower in post-communist countries compared to established democracies (Barnes
2004; Bernhagen and Marsh 2007). This conrms H2, which predicts that youth are more
politically engaged in established democracies. The results from the regression models
controlling for countries reveal that there are some statistically signicant variations in
levels of youth engagement across dierent established democracies (see supplemental
material Appendix B). For instance, the results indicate that political engagement is low
in the U.K., which is also evident in previous studies reporting that the Generation Y in
Britain is very disengaged from politics (Wring, Henn and Weinsten 1999; Grasso 2014;
Fox 2015). Young people in Britain are less likely to vote or be a member of a political
party compared to respondents from the reference category (France). Respondents
from the U.K. have the lowest levels of participation in politics across the EU countries
together with Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, and Poland; young people in these
countries are less likely to participate in politics than respondents in France. The odds
of respondents from newly established democracies to be a member of an organisation
are 59% lower than the odds for respondents from advanced democracies. This result is
statistically signicant (p< 0.01), which conrms H3, which suggest that young people
in advanced democracies are more likely to be members of organisations than young indi-
viduals in new democracies.
Figure 3 illustrates as well that levels of political participation in some countries dier
signicantly from those in another set of countries. This could be explained by the
unique experiences of these countries. Figure 3 shows the average young citizens
Table 4. Results from the logistic regression models of the propensity of young individuals to engage
in politics controlling for age of democracy: Model 4 (general political participation), Model 5 (formal
political participation), and Model 6 (organisational membership).
Variables (reference
Model 4 General political
Model 5 Formal political
Model 6 Organisational
Age (1824)
Aged 2530 1.487** (0.091) 1.886** (0.097) 0.968 (0.046)
Gender (female)
Male 1.214** (0.065) 0.975 (0.043) 1.483** (0.061)
Education (left education at 18 or before)
Left education at 19
or above
2.001** (0.159) 2.038** (0.145) 1.446** (0.100)
Still in education 2.001** (0.159) 1.790** (0.175) 2.052** (0.194)
Current social status (lower social class)
Middle social class 1.152 (0.098) 1.325** (0.095) 1.115 (0.071)
Higher social class 1.513** (0.173) 1.596** (0.150) 1.507** (0.120)
Still in education 1.082 (0.120) 0.986 (0.088) 1.191* (0.101)
Not Working 0.805** (0.067) 0.881 (0.064) 0.772** (0.052)
Age of democracy (advanced democracy)
New Democracy 0.730* (0.154) 1.118 (0.202) 0.408** (0.059)
Number of individuals 11,213 11,213 11,213
Number of countries 27 27 27
Note: Logistic regression (odds ratios and standard errors) *p< 0.05, **p< 0.01 (Eurobarometer 375 2013).
involvement in formal politics and organisations. The scatterplot indicates that there is a
general pattern that advanced democracies have higher levels of youth political partici-
pation in formal politics as well as in organisational membership. If we consider the pol-
itical history of post-Communist countries, these tendencies are not surprising. In the
process of democratisation, these countries had a single-party rule, state ownership,
highly centralised economy, and institutions were under transformation. Post-communist
countries experienced nation-building and industrialisation in later years, and the occur-
rence of civil society was delayed. In addition, in post-communist countries, the levels
of socio-economic development and levels of condence in the institutions are slightly
dierent than in advanced democracies across the EU.
As evident in Figure 3, in countries that are advanced democracies, participation in
formal politics is higher, with the exception of the U.K. and Italy.
Of course, there are
exceptions, such as Latvia and Slovenia, which both have relatively higher political
engagement in comparison to other newly democratised countries. It cannot be expected
every country to t perfectly into this pattern of course.
As the results from the regression analyses reveal, youth engagement in politics varies
across distinctive age of democracies across European countries and across dierent forms
of participation. It is interesting to note that some countries (Germany, Luxemburg, Ireland,
Latvia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia) with lower levels of engagement in formal poli-
tics than France, have higher levels of engagement with organisations
(see supplemental
material Appendix B). Countries with extremely high levels of youth participation in formal
activities (Belgium, Netherland) also have high levels of participation in organisational
membership. The results from the regression analyses indicate that a young person in
Latvia is more likely to participate in politics than a young person in France. However,
Figure 3. Average levels of political engagement in formal participation and organisational member-
ship (Eurobarometer 375 2013).
as this is a single case from a survey that does not provide longitudinal data, this nding is
not enough to reject H3.
Youth participation matters and the issue of youth disengagement continues to be a
major one facing contemporary democracies. There is a need to understand what deter-
mines young peoples engagement in politics better. Most scholars have analysed the
issue of political (dis)engagement among young people in a single country only; this
paper adds contribution to comparative research on young peoples engagement in
The overarching aim of this paper was to investigate the determinants of political
participation among young people, and to explore the relationship between socio-
demographic factors, contextual factors and a diverse range of political activities. The
results of the logistic regression represented a sample of 11,213 young respondents
from 28 dierent European countries. The ndings from the regression analyses
suggest that the socio-demographic factors that predict political participation among
young people are age, education and social class, which is consistent with previous
studies (Stolle and Hooghe 2009; Vecchione and Caprara 2009; Henn and Foard
2014). In terms of the contextual predictors of political participation among young
people, there are dierences between countries, especially between new and old
democracies. The logistic regression results suggest that political participation among
young people is determined by the democratic maturity of the country they live in.
The logistic regression models suggest that political participation among young
people is not universal in any democracy but varies with the age of democracy.
Overall, the analyses reveal that respondents aged 1824 are more likely to be
members of organisations. Some of the main ndings suggest that after controlling
for socio-demographic characteristics, a respondent who is aged 2530 is more likely
to participate in formal politics than a respondent aged 1824, which indicates that
the older the person is, the more likely they are to vote and participate in any kind
of formal politics.
Age of democracy has a crucial impact on young peoples engagement in politics in
dierent European Union countries as the levels of political participation are signicantly
lower in newly established democracies compared to advanced democracies. In advanced
democracies, voting might be perceived as a habit and people living in established
democracies might experience more social pressure to participate in politics. This paper
shows evidence that youth political participation is hindered by the context within each
individual engages and suggests that further research on youth political participation
should incorporate macro-level factors as well.
A limitation in this study is that organisational membership does not fully account for
alternative forms of political participation due to data limitation. However, organisational
membership is a subset of informal participation and allows for a meaningful compari-
son between dierent modes of political participation. In future research, more variables
that account for informal political participation should be analysed. This paper leads to
questions for future research on the topic of contextual predictors of youth political par-
ticipation, where macro-level factors should be explored. In addition, for future research,
it would be interesting to explore whether the pattern of age of democracy being a sig-
nicant determinant of political participation is universal to young people only or it
applies to all ages.
1. Political activities such as boycotting, demonstrating, protesting, etc. are not analysed in this
paper as the Eurobarometer 375 (2013) survey does not address such questions.
2. See Data and methods for details.
3. Which during the time of the seminal study of Almond and Verba (1963) was a newly estab-
lished democracy in comparison to the UK and the US.
4. When the survey was carried out, Croatia was not a member of the European Union; it became
a member on July 1, 2013.
5. I am excluding these participants from the analysis because they cannot engage in formal par-
ticipation, therefore, it is not possible to make inferences about them.
6. There is no cross-national standard question about social class, which is a limitation. Clearly, a
limitation is, as the data are youth focused, the occupationquestion is not necessarily most
accurate for determining social class patterns of a respondent, as the majority of answers to
this question are still in education, but all of the answers to the What is your occupation?
question were grouped in dierent categories, creating the social class independent variable.
7. Post-communist countries and countries that used to belong to the Soviet Union.
8. Additional analysis for the purpose of robustness check of the results.
9. Malta was excluded from the regression analysis due to lack of data and has extremely low
values, therefore might skew the results and make them less reliable for inference. The
results are consistent when it is included.
10. This is descriptive statistics, please refer to the regression analyses for statistically signicant
11. In relation to the reference category: France.
The author would like to thank Will Jennings, Adriana Bunea, and Viktor Valgardsson for their excel-
lent comments.
Disclosure statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the author.
This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council [ES/J500161/1].
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National identity is interesting to be discussed, considering the loss of national boundaries since technological advances increasingly affect daily life. National identity is essential to be implemented from an early age, primarily through the role of education. The focus of this study is to reveal the Principal's strategy for strengthening national identities. This study was conducted using a quantitative approach through a survey of 50 elementary school principals spread over 18 subdistricts in the Sidoarjo Regency. Two things can be concluded from this study. First, national identity is essential for the young generation of mid-globalization. This study shows that every respondent realizes the importance of principal secondary schools developing straightforward policy programs about internalizing national identity. Those policy programs must integrate extracurricular activities, extracurricular activities, building school culture, and various participation activities. Second, most of the respondents agree that their schools have no clear policy as their guidance in internalizing national identity values in learning. Several teachers have integrated national identity values into learning through lesson plans or learning activities. This study recommends developing an applicable policy model to strengthen the national identity of the young generation.
This chapter interrogates Motsweding FM’s news and current affairs programmes’ Boresetse and Tsele Le Tsele’s use of digital media technologies in quest for youth’s participation through mediated public sphere. The most recent battlefield for public broadcasters is the use of new media technologies that offer an opportunity to strengthen audience participation in content production, distribution, and consumption. In their determination to intensify youth access to news and current affairs, producers have increasingly utilised new media technologies such as phone-ins, WhatsApp voice notes, Twitter, WhatsApp, and Facebook text messages. The chapter thus challenges Motsweding FM’s news and current affairs debate and discussion segment to appreciate and recognised the subaltern young people’s right to participate and express their views pertaining public affairs. The African subaltern youths’ demographic profile is an attractive constituency targeted by public radio broadcasting services. In acknowledging young people as agents of change, Motsweding FMs’ news and current affairs programmes have employed digital media technologies to strengthen youth participation. The chapter utilises theoretical frames drawn from the Habermasian public sphere, considered as an institutionalised arena for discursive participation, distinct from the state and the economy, in which private citizens come together to deliberate on crucial matters affecting their lives.
This chapter was designed to investigate how the Nigerian youth—the largest age group in the country—deploy social media platforms to consume radio content on topical public issues to establish the intermediality of radio broadcasting and social media in driving the national renaissance. While Media Dependency and Democratic Participant theories formed the theoretical framework, we combined survey and Focus Group Discussion (FGD) as research methods. One hundred and fifteen copies of the online survey questionnaire were administered to youths, while five sessions of FGD were held with select young people who used social media and listened to the radio. The findings revealed that radio is still a popular news medium among the youth. Also, the study established that social media, via their capacity for wide reach, cost-effectiveness, and multimodality, have rather enhanced the significance of radio than undermined its efficiency as an agent of national reawakening and cohesion. Therefore, given the fact that every social change is usually youth-driven across climes, social media and radio must be deployed in synergy for better youth participation in the national discourse.
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The purpose of the paper is to present the results of research concerning contemporary levels and forms of political participation of young people involved in selected youth organisations operating in Poland. The research was qualitative. Data collection involved a search of secondary data sources. All the available documents posted on the websites of the investigated organisations, including their statutes, rules and regulations, and reports and accounts covering activities and operations, as well as social media (FB) posts, were analysed. An induction method was used to provide an analysis of the content of the data for the “participation” category. Our results show that the main forms of political participation that the youth organisations demonstrate in the analysed documents are social and educational campaigns, demonstrations and notifications of important dates with different intensities on the local, national, and international levels.
The disengagement of young people from politics continues to be a major challenge for democracies in Europe and beyond. Although the European Commission and national governments have made multiple efforts to mitigate this problem, young people are increasingly detached from traditional forms of politics, such as political party and trade union membership, and voting. However, this does not mean that young people are indifferent to what policymakers do and decide. The recent mobilizations for the future of the environment through the Fridays for Future and Extinction Rebellion movements and other forms of protest clearly show that young people want to play an active part of change in their communities. Our contribution focuses on the youth’s attitudes toward democracy and the possibilities of e-democracy to strengthen democratic participation. Based on a review of successful e-participation platforms, we identify examples of best practices in this field. We also investigate supply and demand side factors regarding youth e-democracy initiatives by conducting interviews with local policymakers and a survey among young people in three European cities, i.e., Krakow (Poland), Leiden (Netherlands), and Trieste (Italy). Our results demonstrate that young people are eager to get involved politically when provided with tools targeted to them. E-democracy platforms thus hold considerable potential to promote democratic participation among young people.
Using multi-level modeling and lenses of gender socialization and gendered organizations, we investigated the role of U.S. girls’ high schools in adolescent political participation and social engagement, characterized by voting interest, volunteerism, and interactions with diverse communities among other variables, with a focus on the role of all girls’ schooling. Results demonstrate benefits for graduates of girls’ schools in community-orientation, civic engagement, social agency, and political involvement compared to similar peers in coeducational environments. The conclusions provide broader insight for all types of schooling into the ways that they can focus on increasing engagement for their students. Implications for policy and future research are discussed.
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Young people in Britain are often characterised as disconnected from the formal political process and from democratic institutions. Certainly their rate of abstention in general election contests over the last decade has led to concerns amongst the political classes that they have a disaffection from politics that is deeply entrenched and more so than was the case with previous youth generations, and may in the future become habit-forming. In this article, we consider the results from an online national survey of 1,025 British 18 year olds conducted in 2011, and compare these with the results from a similar study conducted by one of the authors in 2002. In doing so, our aim is to assess the extent to which young people’s levels of political engagement have changed over the course of the intervening years, and if so, how they have changed. The results from this comparison indicate that, contrary to popular wisdom, today’s generation of young people are interested in political affairs, and they are keen to play a more active role in the political process. However, their recent experience of their first general election in 2010 has left them feeling frustrated. Indeed, our study has revealed a considerable aversion to formal, professional politics which is as deep today as it was for the predecessor 2002 youth cohort.
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There is widespread concern about declining public involvement in established democracies. Europeans are turning away from mainstream electoral politics towards new forms of political engagement. This is particularly the case for younger citizens. If young people are ‘reinventing political activism’ (Norris, 2002), in which forms of participation and in which countries is it most true? Drawing on data from the European Social Survey, the following article compares and contrasts young people’s politics in the 15 old member states of the European Union. Youth engagement generally reflects a country’s civic-political culture. However, there are significant differences in levels of youth participation, in ratios of youth participation (compared to the adult population as a whole) and in the relative popularity of different forms of political action. The United Kingdom stands out, however, with a disturbingly large gap between the political engagement of young people and older adults.
This new comparative analysis shows that there are reasons to be concerned about the future of democratic politics. Younger generations have become disengaged from the political process. The evidence presented in this comprehensive study shows that they are not just less likely than older generations to engage in institutional political activism such as voting and party membership - they are also less likely to engage in extra-institutional protest activism. Generations, Political Participation and Social Change in Western Europe offers a rigorously researched empirical analysis of political participation trends across generations in Western Europe. It examines the way in which the political behaviour of younger generations leads to social change. Are younger generations completely disengaged from politics, or do they simply choose to participate in a different way to previous generations?. The book is of key interest to scholars, students and practitioners of political sociology, political participation and behaviour, European Politics, Comparative Politics and Sociology.
This paper analyzes how the age of a democracy matters when explaining voter turnout. It proposes that democratic maturity might influence the probability of casting a ballot not only directly, but at the same time, as an amplifier of the effects of individual-level predictors of voting. From an array of variables that might be responsible for raising or lowering one’s probability of voting, this study emphasizes that the impact of a sense of external efficacy can be contingent on the different levels of democratic age. Theoretically, the ties between democratic maturity and external efficacy in turnout explanation follow from aspects of political socialization process. We hypothesize that the higher the democratic age, the higher the positive effect of external efficacy on participation in elections. This supposition is tested through an empirical analysis based on survey data from the third module of the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES). In total, the dataset comprises 34,440 respondents nested in 27 countries. Multilevel logistic regression that includes cross-level interaction is employed to estimate the effects of the variables of interest on self-reported turnout. © 2015, Austrian Political Science Association. All rights reserved.