The notion of the millennial generation is met with thoughts of narcissism and disengagement. Despite the perception, a study out of UBC’s Okanagan campus, shows that Canadian youth are actively engaged in politics.
In a survey of 157 university students between the ages of 18 and 28, conducted in three provinces, more than 70 per cent believed it was important for people to participate politically, and 88 per cent felt that they could be effective in their actions.
“The survey data was collected during a time of global economic insecurity and concerns over terrorism,” says Catherine Broom, Assist. Prof. in the Faculty of Education. “The study data was collected before, during, and after the 2015 Canadian Federal election and demonstrates how youth, at least the youth surveyed here, engaged with the electoral process and demonstrated their desire for change.”
The survey results indicate that despite popular perception, today’s youth are reactive to political events, like the federal election.
“In a previous study of Canadian youth before the election, they did not identify themselves as having such a high sense of self-efficacy,” says Broom. “It seems that the chance to vote and voting, along with the overwhelming electoral victory of Trudeau, went hand-in-hand with an increased sense of purpose.”
Broom also collaborated with six scholars to conduct surveys of youth in England, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Japan and Mexico. Her results indicate that the most commonly stated reasons for millennials not to get involved in politics was that they did not believe they are being heard, that they felt like their government was corrupt, or that they made conscious decisions not to vote due to their perceptions of the event.
“Canadian youth were well aware of the scandals that arose during Canada’s Conservative governance,” says Broom. “In the case of Prime Minister Trudeau’s campaign, respondents felt connected to him through his use of social media, because of his namesake, and his positive election campaign.”
The survey results also indicate that youth engage with politics through traditional means. Some 88 per cent indicated that they participate through voting, 82 per cent participated by being a good neighbour, and 69 per cent through volunteering. Less significant was direct participation in political events (22 per cent), protesting (14 per cent), or joining a political party, (six per cent).
“It isn’t apathy that stops youth from participating in politics, it’s the thinking that they can’t do anything to make change,” says Broom. “Youth actively construct their civic mindsets through their backgrounds and active processing of their experiences and contexts. The youth that participated in the study are aware of what’s going on politically, and they are interested in learning more.”
For more information: visit Youth Civic Engagement in a Globalized World.