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Let’s start from the conclusions: If we will be able to break the wall of distrust towards politics, young people will likely consent with our political goals. In a deeply concerning scenario, this is the light at the end of the tunnel we were looking for.
In several countries, progressive forces face major challenges: the parties’ members average age is high and increasing, while they often fail to attract so called “Millennials”. Youth engagement is therefore a key political issue, and political elites have the duty to improve traditional parties’ capacity to attract and involve young people, adapting to changes.
The Millennial Dialogue project, created by FEPS in cooperation with the Centre for American Progress and Audiencenet, recently presented a Report on the comparative survey conducted on 3000 Millennials in Italy, Poland and Germany.
Similar initiatives are very much welcomed, as they constitute a precious tool to have an insight into those trends which are likely to become relevant in the future, and they help us to find new ways to include people by understanding their priorities.
According to the common sense, in Italy there’s a huge distrust of politics and politicians among the youngsters and a lack of will to engage in politics. Does the survey confirm this intuitive view? Partly, but it also reveals a far more complex picture.
These are the figures: 81% of respondents are not politically engaged, and 60% of them “feel their generation is less interested in politics than their parents’ or grandparents’ generation”. Moreover, politics is neither in the top career aspirations nor in the first places among youngsters’ interests. 81% of the Millennials feels the view of younger people is largely ignored by most politicians, while only 16% feels confident that they and their peers could make themselves heard.
In this discouraging context, we likely would be tempted to throw in the towel. However, the survey deepens the analysis and shows a more complex reality.
“Decisions made by politicians in Italy” are considered to be the 5th (out of 15) most important factor affecting the future quality of life, after the global and Italian economic situation, the new developments in technology and connected devices and the state of environment; in addition, 70% of Millennials would like to vote in the next elections. So, young people seem aware about the concrete impact of political decisions on their lives and on the future of their communities.
In this sense, distrust of youngsters is more related to politicians and “present” politics than to politics in general.
It is no coincidence that among asked youngsters honesty is perceived as the most appreciated and researched quality for a politician, along with “a stance against corruption”, intelligence, trustworthiness and ability to listen to others (and we have to admit that Partito Democratico has to fight for ameliorating his “perceived” results in the field, in comparison to Movimento 5 Stelle): among major reasons for not wanting to vote, lack of trust in politician appears to be the key factor for the final choice.
However, by listing the elements contributing to voting decision, young people implicitly suggest how they want to be encouraged to participate to political life. They want to see, also through traditional and new media, politicians who directly engage with them. They want to meet candidates, know their opinion in detail, be direct interlocutors for retailed information. In some ways, Millennials need nowadays to be approached in a more personal and direct way: party’s manifesto is insufficient.
The process of adapting traditional parties to those new trends will not be easy. We want engaged Millennials, not politics to become merely customized marketing; the balance will always be frail.
Yet still, and here I come to my conclusion, this challenge deserves to be accepted and welcomed.
Looking at the top priorities for public spending indicated by the youngsters who answered the survey, these are quite consistent with the program of a left-wing party: healthcare, job creation, education, fight against poverty, innovation and skills. Furthermore, the Millennials answered the key question of “What should politician work towards?” listing: ensuring equality opportunities for all (93%), ensuring the best possible future for young people (91%), improving and maintaining good educational facilities (90%), improving and maintaining good medical care (89%), investing in technology (87%).
If we will be able to break the wall of distrust towards politics, young people will likely consent with our political goals.
We cannot allow ourselves to waste such an opportunity.
We must make our political proposal clearly understandable, we must not fear direct contact with the Millennials and we must convince them their voice is loud enough to be heard.