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12 November 2015

OMG Millennials are not voting? What's with that? The Millennial Dialogue story

Posted by: Maria Freitas, Policy Advisor at the Foundation for European Progressive Studies

Categories: Engagement, Grandparents, job security, parents, politics

“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Why should anyone discuss politics? The most common answers amongst people of my age are: ‘it is boring’; ‘they (politicians) are greedy for power and do not care about the people’, ‘it’s more of the same old same old story’, ‘my vote doesn’t matter’.

My generation has grown into a difficult world that contrasts sharply with the one that my parents and grandparents lived through. You could have a big family and a big house. You could plan nice summer holidays because there was a certainty on stable income and the economy was flourishing. After your studies you would have a job waiting for you, a job for life. This sort of description is the dream of most Millennials because after all, we are having the same dreams that our grandparents had, we were just unfortunate to be born in a different time and context.

Nevertheless, Millennials are still a bit different because nowadays our daily-life is marked by a constant struggle and the hope for a better future seems a far-stretched mirage.

Having a master’s degree nowadays is simply not sufficient to guarantee that you’ll have a job and security, that you can finally start planning to have a family and be happy. You are confronted with student loans and a number of low-paid internships after your studies and even then you need to be the perfect match for that one job which a number of others, just like you applied to.

How does this explain my story, the Millennials story? How does this relate to the political world?

Millennials feel that they are trapped in a state of affairs provoked by politicians unfit to govern. Millennials have seen governments change but did not feel a real change in their daily-lives. Therefore, from the outset, the youth’s drive towards political engagement is very low.

I was myself apolitical until the moment I was confronted with real party-politics competition. And it was exciting. It was fun to follow the news and actually understanding the difference from center-left and center-right politics. Nowadays I understand that I was fortunate enough to be provoked by the political world and became drawn into it and became interested in taking part. But many Millennials haven’t had this sort of momentum. Many Millennials feel that it’s simply not worthwhile taking part.

The Millennial data surveys started in December 2014 and they confirmed yet again an unsettling message for the future of political parties, politicians, and for people interested or working in politics – low voter turnout and low level of political participation amongst the younger generations.

Millennials of today care about their hobbies and music, about social media and about spending time with friends. There’s nothing wrong with that. But why has politics fallen into the ‘wasting time’ category?

Why did political participation lose its socializing character? My grandparents took part in politics, my parents discussed political issues at the dinner table. Why are Millennials choosing a different pathway to be socially active?

Of course I do not want to seem too extreme but the Millennial data is awaking us progressives to the harsh reality that we need to reconnect to the Millennials and we actually need to understand the reasons of why they distanced themselves from the political system, from politics, from social democracy. We need to be bold and face this harsh reality, we need to steadily walk into the direction of the Millennials and hopefully they will reach back.