Young people disinterested in local politics

Study shows high degree of apathy among young people about local politics ahead of November’s elections

Young people risk becoming marginalised politically after the next council elections, if a recent study is anything to go by.

While 61 percent of Danes say they definitely plan on voting at the council elections on November 19, only 35 percent of those aged 17-24 said they would.

The study, carried out by YouGov for Momentum, also showed that young people were apathetic in general about local politics. Only 14 percent of young people responded that they were either interested or very interested in council elections, while 40 percent answered that it was boring or didn’t matter.

The results of the study suggest that participation amongst this age group at the next election may be even less than the 46 percent who bothered to vote in 2009’s local elections. In 2001, 54 percent of 19 to 20-year-olds voted.

Professor Kasper Møller Hansen from the University of Copenhagen studied electoral participation at the 2009 council elections and argued that the low youth participation rate was troublesome.

“If young people don’t develop the habit of voting early on, then it can create a negative spiral in which it doesn’t become normal to vote and that can be hard to break,” Hansen told Berlingske newspaper. “Voting, like many things in life, is a habit. But if young people reach the age of 25 thinking that it doesn’t matter whether they vote or not, then the young generation wont develop the habit and that can become especially problematic.”

Jan Petersen (Socialdemokraterne), mayor of Norddjurs Council in Jutland, added that it was in the best interests of the democratic system that more young people start to vote.

“The lower the voter turnout, the lower the democratic legitimacy of the council,” Petersen told Berlingske. “That’s why we ought to try to get more young people to vote. Also because the legitimate interests of young people risk becoming weaker in the political system if politicians lose their connection with this group.”

According to Signe Bo, chairman of the Danish youth council, Dansk Ungdoms Fællesråd, one of the reasons that young people don’t participate is because issues that concern them often don’t appear high enough on the political agenda as they are often overshadowed by issues such as welfare and help for the aged.

“We need councils to be better at bringing up subjects that affect young people,” Bo told Politiken newspaper. “Youth housing, culture, leisure time and work – these issues are incredibly important but often disappear in the council debate.”