Library Header Image
LSE Research Online LSE Library Services

The myth of youth apathy: young Europeans' critical attitudes toward democratic life

Cammaerts, Bart, Bruter, Michael ORCID: 0000-0002-4805-357X, Banaji, Shakuntala, Harrison, Sarah and Anstead, Nick ORCID: 0000-0002-1090-5271 (2014) The myth of youth apathy: young Europeans' critical attitudes toward democratic life. American Behavioral Scientist, 58 (5). pp. 645-664. ISSN 0002-7642

PDF - Accepted Version
Download (496kB) | Preview

Identification Number: 10.1177/0002764213515992


A common interpretation of the low levels of electoral turnout among young voters is that they are apathetic and part of a generation that does not care about political issues—indeed, a selfish and materialistic generation. In this article, the authors question this common perception and test this claim against an important alternative: that the limitations to youth participation in Europe are due not to a lack of interest in the public good but rather to a combination of contextual and psychosocial factors, including the real as well as perceived inadequacy of the existing political offer. The authors assessed young people’s attitudes toward democratic life in the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Austria, Finland, and Hungary. A mixture of a comparative mass survey, stakeholder interviews, an experiment, and focus groups was used. The data suggest that young people are willing to engage politically but are turned off by the focus and nature of existing mainstream political discourse and practice, which many believe excludes them and ignores their needs and interests. Contrary to the assumptions of the disaffected and apathetic citizen approach, there is a strong desire among many young Europeans to participate in democratic life, but this desire is not met by existing democratic institutions and discourses.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2013 SAGE Publications
Divisions: Government
Media and Communications
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Date Deposited: 27 Feb 2014 12:36
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 02:09
Projects: Education, Audiovisual and Culture, EACEA/2010/03
Funders: European Commission, Youth Participation in Democratic Life

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics