Europe: Youth study: Despite concerns, widespread support for EU

Europe: Youth study: Despite concerns, widespread support for EU

The basis is stable, say the study’s authors. The majority of young people surveyed support democracy. However, very few of them recognize themselves in the work of the EU Parliament.

The European elections are just around the corner, but what does that have to do with me? A question that many young people in Europe are asking themselves. According to a recent survey in six EU countries, less than a fifth of them feel adequately represented by the European Parliament. On average across countries, only 17 percent said that their interests were “strongly or very strongly” reflected there, according to the representative study “Young Europe” commissioned by the Tui Foundation. Here are the most important points at a glance.

In the election year 2019, the perceived gap was even smaller

In 2019, when the EU Parliament was last elected, a total of 21 percent of the six countries examined said they felt particularly strongly represented by the European Parliament – four percentage points more than in 2024. This also applies to Germany. There, only 19 percent of respondents said they felt particularly strongly represented by the EU Parliament. A new parliament will be elected in the EU from June 6 to 9. According to the study, only a few participants (17 percent) perceive their own country’s parliaments as representing their interests.

What was asked – and where

In March of this year, the opinion research institute Yougov surveyed almost 6,000 young people aged 16 to 26. The six participating countries were Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Poland. Overall, the survey was about young people’s attitudes and connection to Europe – also with a view to the upcoming election. The authors assume that the group of participants represents around 70 to 80 percent of all young people in the EU.

Despite concerns, widespread support for EU

The bottom line is that the survey does not show any rejection of the European Union. More than half of the participants (54 percent) believe that their country’s membership in the EU is “a good thing.” Only in Poland (50) and Greece (47) do young people view membership more negatively than elsewhere. In Germany, the highest approval rate is 65 percent. Overall, a differentiated picture emerges, emphasizes political scientist Thorsten Faas. “There is no black and white.” The EU’s strengths are seen as basic values ​​such as freedom of opinion and freedom of the press and political participation. Among other things, respondents consider the EU’s weaknesses to be that, in their view, it has little power in the world.

75 percent see elections as a civic duty

While 68 percent consider the elections in their own country to be important, only 58 percent say the same about the European elections. The study’s authors describe the finding that only more than half (56 percent) consider the elections in their country to be fair as “worrying”. In Germany, there is significantly more trust here, at 72 percent. Overall, three quarters of the participants see voting as a civic duty. The majority (68) also see elections as an effective means of changing things. “We do not have a generation that is hostile to democracy,” concludes the expert Faas.

One in two people rejects the right to vote from the age of 16

It is striking that almost half of young people (49 percent) are against voting from the age of 16. The exception is Germany, with 56 percent in favor. In this country, young people aged 16 and over will be able to vote in the European elections for the first time in June. In Spain and Greece, opposition to the earlier voting age is greatest, at 60 and 57 percent respectively. However, respondents there also reported that they did not feel adequately prepared for voting at school.

Faas pointed out that the right to vote from the age of 16 could also encourage younger people from families with little education to use their vote. Children from privileged backgrounds are more likely to be taught the importance of elections at home, explained Faas. Currently, 16-year-olds in Germany are only allowed to vote in the European elections, in most local elections and in some state elections. The age limit for federal elections is still 18. In order to lower this limit as well, the Basic Law would have to be changed. Bundestag President Bärbel Bas (SPD) would be in favor of this. “The voting age from 16 could help the parties to pay much more attention to young people’s issues in their election manifestos,” said Bas during a visit to Vienna.

Almost every second person observes anti-democratic behaviour

Anti-democratic behavior is one of the grievances that young people perceive. Almost half, 49 percent, observe this in their own country. In Greece, the figure is even more than two thirds (67), and in Germany, 55 percent. Around two in five respondents (42) believe that democracy in their country is at least partially at risk.

Migration more important than climate crisis

The most pressing problem at the European level for those surveyed is currently migration. Unlike in previous years, the climate crisis has moved into second place by a wide margin. Around a third of those surveyed also expressed criticism of migration, it was said.

Desire for more participation

Even beyond the study, one thing is clear just before the European elections: young people want to have a say. Just this weekend, the Federal Youth Conference in Berlin ended with a clear message: 200 young people from all over Germany called on the federal government to introduce a law for better political participation by younger people. Associations are also putting pressure on the government. Sarah Dehn from the youth organization of the German Social Association told the dpa: “We are fed up with the fact that the course for our future is being set by people who will hardly or not at all be affected by it.” The results of the study are a “clear mandate for action.”

Source: Stern

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