Youth and Satisfaction with Democracy


Youth and Satisfaction with Democracy
Centre for the Future of Democracy, Cambridge university
Authors: Foa, R.S., Klassen, A., Wenger, D., Rand, A. and M. Slade.
2020 :: 60 pages

2. Key Findings [text bolding from original]
:: Globally, youth satisfaction with democracy is declining – not only in absolute terms, but also relative to how older generations felt at the same stages in life. There are notable declines in four regions: Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, western Europe, and the “Anglo-Saxon” democracies, including the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States.

:: In developed democracies, a major contributor to youth discontent is economic exclusion. Higher levels of youth unemployment and wealth inequality are associated with rising dissatisfaction in both absolute and relative terms – that is, a growing gap between assessments of democratic functioning between youth and older generations.

:: In the emerging democracies of Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and southern Europe, we also find signs of transition fatigue, as generations come of age who lack either memory of authoritarian rule or the experience of the democracy struggle.

:: However, countries that have elected populist leaders have seen a recovery in youth satisfaction with democracy. On average, individuals aged 18-34 see a 16 percentage-point increase in satisfaction with democracy during the first term in office of a populist leader. Where moderate politicians have narrowly beaten or succeeded a populist rival, we find no comparable increase.

:: We find this not only in cases where left-wing populists are elected, but also under right-wing populism. The major exception is the presidency of Donald Trump in the United States.

:: Yet if the effect of populism is initially to boost youth satisfaction with democracy, its longer-term effects are less clear. Though “populism in power” can temporarily increase youth democratic contentment, once populists are in office for more than two terms, this presages a major democratic legitimacy crisis.