“Voice and Equality”: Young People’s Politics in the European Union

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Academics and policy-makers have highlighted the increasing disconnection between citizens and electoral politics in Europe. Declining citizen involvement in traditional forms of politics has manifested itself in lower voter turnout and a dramatic shrinkage in the membership of political parties. Citizens have turned to alternative forms of civic and political engagement. These trends are most marked amongst young people. Whilst a number of studies have examined the nature of political participation in Europe, and the participation of young people in individual countries or specific political activities (such as voting), hardly any research has looked at patterns of engagement ‘within’ a generation of young people across different democracies. The following article examines the political participation of young Europeans in national democracies in fifteen European Union member states. Previous studies have shown that citizens are increasingly moving away from electoral forms of participation towards alternative forms of engagement that are (for the population as a whole) much less socially equal. Using data from European Social Survey, this article finds that the social inequalities of participation are (with the major exception of voting) much less profound for young people. This latter finding has important implications for public efforts to promote greater youth participation in democracy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)836-858
JournalWest European Politics
Issue number4
Early online date25 Mar 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • young people
  • participation
  • europe

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