Junge Europäische Föderalisten Europa
Junge Europäische Föderalisten Europa (JEF) / flickr - CC BY-NC 2.0, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

, Study: "Exit, voice or loyalty?” Young people on Europe and democracy

This publication presents the attitudes of young Europeans from Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia towards the European Union.

Immediately after the Brexit vote in the UK in June 2015, there were plentiful explanations claiming that the elder and middle-aged generations had outvoted the younger, that they had voted against the interests of British youth, etc. An opinion poll carried out in Poland at the same time showed that in Poland the situation was different: whereas 77 % of Poles wanted to stay in the EU and only 16 % would opt for leaving the Community, among youth (18 – 29 years old), 27% would opt for leaving.

The majority of youth see many benefits of EU membership and opt for staying in the EU and working to reform it. However, there is also a strong ambiguity in the respondents’ views on societal trends and values, such as democracy and multiculturalism or globalization and migration.
Gabriele Schöler

We found this Euroscepticism astonishing, given that the youngest generations seemed to reap the most benefits from their country’s integration into the European Union. And this poll, together with the observation that several of the four Visegrad states, in particular, were then governed by EU-critical, nationalist governments, begged the question – “Is this a new trend among youth in this part of Europe?” And if so, what does that mean for the future when this generation indeed goes to the polls in their countries? Is this a trend that should and could be changed? And how is the situation in Austria, where, at the time of our initial considerations, two candidates were campaigning for the federal presidency, one of them a staunch representative of the right-wing populist and national-conservative Freedom Party of Austria? And what about young Germans? Do they, as we all without doubt would have been willing to wager, believe in European integration in times where Europe has to cope with one crisis after another, from the Euro crisis to the refugee crisis of 2015?

These observations and considerations led us to carry out a special youth poll in six EU member states in what is geographically central and eastern Europe: Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland and the Slovak Republic. Our aim was to find out to what extent the youth in these countries are indeed Eurosceptic, and, if this is so, find a set of reasons why that might be the case. In our survey, we wanted to get a deeper understanding of the younger generations’ way of thinking. That is why we asked not only about their general assessment of EU integration, its benefits and costs, but also about their opinions on some specific topics, such as migration processes, and their support for democracy and the globalisation processes that are a substantial part of the developments in European integration.

The publication consists of three main parts. First, we describe the general results from all six countries, stressing the similarities and differences among them and drafting some general conclusions. We also try to draft a “picture of a Eurosceptic”, answering the questions of how a young Eurosceptic person thinks and what opinions does he or she have concerning European policies, democracy and globalisation. After this broader look, the authors from each country present and comment on their respective national results, searching for connections between the responses, looking at socio-demographic data and reflecting on other surveys conducted in the given field. Each part starts with key findings, being a summary of the research results. At the end of each country chapter, we formulate recommendations as to what can be done to help young Europeans to better understand EU Integration.

Publikation: Exit, voice or loyalty? Young people on Europe and Democracy

This publication presents the attitudes of young Europeans from Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia towards the ...

Background information

Background information

For our representative online opinion poll 3,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 24 have been consulted from 30 January to 13 February 2017 in Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia (500 respondents per country on the basis of a quota calculation based on Eurostat statistics).

The opinion poll was commissioned in cooperation with the Polish Institute for Public Affairs (ISP) in Warsaw and was carried out by Kantar Public. Participating partners in the other countries were the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM) in Vienna, the Institute for Public Affairs (IVO) in Bratislava, the STEM Institute in Prague and the Institute Political Capital in Budapest.


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