Home > Uncategorized > Political Apathy Among Youth Debunked

Political Apathy Among Youth Debunked

In 2007, I recall listening to a radio talk show in Winnipeg that discussed the “apathy of young people towards politics”. Citing low voter turnout among young people (defined here as those aged 18-24), the general consensus was that today’s youth are less politicized, ask fewer questions, and have lost a sense of collective values.

A recent research project undertaken by Policy Research Initiative addressed these perceptions directly (among others in their analysis of youth values across a spectrum of topics). The full report can be read here: Investing in Youth – PRI

This report validated a common theme within the press that often portrays today’s youth as lazy, self-centered, and out of touch with older, more “responsible”, generations. A recent forum entry I read supports this perspective, citing “Lets face it – the world isn’t like it use to be. My parents and their parents valued family, history & heritage.”

As the “Investing in Youth” report demonstrates, youth are not very different from their seniors in terms of their interest in political matters. What is different is that youth are more interested in the so-called “non-traditional” forms of political participation (such as those that contribute to defending causes – fundraising, signature gathering, blogging, petitions, discussion groups, information campaigns, boycotting products, etc) rather than traditional forms of political participation, such as voting, membership in political parties, rallies, etc. In addition, the study shows that in the area of volunteer work, or participation in cultural or professional organizations, those aged 18-24 have the highest participation rates than any other age group.

To accurately understand youth’s interest and participation in the political process, a much deeper understanding of political participation is required. Non-traditional forms of political participation are changing the way the world works, as Twitter, Facebook and other forms of social-networking have shown us.

With this reality in mind, policy makers, politicians and the media should be careful not to represent youth as apathetic, or stereotype them as so. Instead, policy should be oriented to encourage the use of non-traditional forms of political participation, as it presents positive implications for the democratic health of society, the confidence level of youth, and the relationship between government and its citizens.

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