Europe’s Youth Don’t Care to Vote—But They’re Ready to Join a Mass Revolt

Young Europeans are sick of the status quo in Europe. And they’re ready to take to the streets to bring about change, according to a recent survey.

Around 580,000 respondents in 35 countries were asked the question: Would you actively participate in large-scale uprising against the generation in power if it happened in the next days or months? More than half of 18- to 34-year-olds said yes.

The question was part of a European Union-sponsored survey, titled “Generation What?” The report went on to focus on respondents from 13 countries to better understand what young people are optimistic and frustrated about in Europe. Among these spotlighted countries, young people in Greece were particularly interested in joining a large-scale uprising against their government, with 67% answering yes to the question. Respondents in Greece were also more likely to believe politicians were corrupt and to have negative perceptions of the country’s financial sector.

Young people in Italy and Spain rounded out the top three, with 65% and 63% willing to join a large-scale uprising, respectively. In comparison, young people in Netherlands were least interested in expressing their frustration in the streets, with only 33% agreeing with the statement. Germany (37%) and Austria (39%) were also less eager for revolt.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, respondents from France, a country in the midst of a tense election, with a long history of riots, protests, and revolutions, were also up for joining a large-scale uprising—61% answered yes. Just yesterday, teenagers in France held rallies in Rennes and other cities to protest against both presidential candidates. Some protestors blockaded schools, while others marched towards the city center with placards that read “Expel Marine Le Pen, not immigrants” and “We don’t want Macron or Le Pen.” The report notes that respondents from France complained of a number of negative developments—too much corruption, too many taxes, too many rich people—compared to the rest in the EU.

Voter apathy among the young has long been described as a worrying trend. In the UK, for example, youth turnout rates at general elections fell by 28 percentage points, from 66% in 1992 to 38% in 2005. But this declining electoral participation is not necessarily evidence of political apathy.

Young people’s willingness to protest suggests they’re still participating in the political process, albeit in a less conventional way. In a 2014 study, young people from Britain, France, and Germany are more engaged in forms of direct action. Compared with older voters, young people were more likely to sign a petition, and more than twice as likely to participate in a protest.



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