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Young People Are Becoming Indifferent To Democracy

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In a year that’s set to be defined by two landmark elections in the West — one here on home soil, another on the other side of the pond — a concerning new study has found that young people are becoming increasingly disenfranchised from traditional models of governing.

A study by the Onward centre-right think tank found that 60% of British people under the age of 45 agreed that ‘having a strong leader who does not have to bother with parliament or elections’ is a good way to run the country. In other words: more than half of young people believe that something akin to a dictatorship, in which the electorate has less sway among those in positions of power, is preferable to a functioning democracy.

britains prime minister rishi sunak gestures as he speaks to apprentices during a visit to writtle university college near chelmsford on september 21, 2023 photo by alastair grant pool afp photo by alastair grantpoolafp via getty images
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Onward’s findings corroborate those of other studies too. A report from the Centre for the Future of Democracy at the University of Cambridge found that in almost every global region it is among 18-34 year olds that satisfaction with democracy is in steepest decline.

Researchers found that young people are most positive about democracy under 'populist leaders of both left and right', with millennials in advanced democracies among those who are more likely to view political opponents as morally flawed.

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The findings come on the back of what looks set to be an intense and, indeed, polarising election year. In the US, Joe Biden is expected to run as the Democratic nominee against either Nikki Haley or Donald Trump, who are currently battling it out for the Republican nomination. It is estimated that members of Gen Z will make up over 40 million potential voters in the States this year – including 8 million people who will have newly reached voting age since 2022 – making up nearly one fifth of the American electorate. Together with the youngest Millennials, young people aged 18-34 are poised to be a potential force in this year's election, which many are preparing to be a battle between Biden and Trump.

Meanwhile in the UK, Rishi Sunak's divided Conservative party looks set to be challenged by a slew of other parties, including Keir Starmer's Labour party. Recent polling has suggested that Labour currently has a 46-point lead among young voters aged between 18 and 34.

The UK general election is expected to be held in the second half of 2024, while Americans will turn out to vote for their 77th president on November 5, 2024.

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