The Strategist

Study: Millenials are disappointed in democracy

10/21/2020 - 05:48

A large-scale analysis on attitudes towards democracy through different generations was carried out by the Center for the Study of Democracy of the University of Cambridge.

The millennial generation turned out to be the most dissatisfied in democracy. The authors suggest that in many nations, the disappointment arose from a wave of populism. 

The researchers went through 3,500 surveys, with 4.8 million people participating. The attitude to democracy was examined In four generations: the interbellum, baby boomers, generation X and millennials. 

Millennials are more disappointed with democracy than other generations, the study found. In Western countries, this is particularly evident; in Latin America and Africa, a similar pattern is also noted. 

Interbellum generation shared the most satisfaction with democracy-53-55 percent, depending on age.

The majority of baby boomers are still very democratic: 51-53 per cent; among baby boomers aged 49-50, the highest degree of satisfaction is noted. 

Generation X was very pessimistic about democracy: satisfaction was just 50.5 percent. The level of satisfaction with democracy reached a high of 53 percent in 32-33 years. However, it fell to 50 percent by the age of 40, and then to 47 percent by the age of 49. 

The level of satisfaction with democracy is lower than 50 percent for millennials: declining from 49 percent for 20-year-olds to 45 percent for 35-year-olds. The researchers see the cause in the wave of populism that engulfed several countries a few years ago. This surge, the height of which the writers of the study attribute to 2015, is now starting to subside, it is noted.

The authors argue that in the early years, the phenomenon of 'populism in control' led to a rise in young people's satisfaction with democracy. Then again, a loss of confidence arises if a populist has been in control for two or more terms. If a politician shows something and proposes quick and swift steps to address major problems (difficult economic condition, unemployment, low living standards, etc.), the trust of young people in democracy rises during his first term. 

After a few years, however, young people, irrespective of whether this nationalist is a right-wing or left-wing politician, begin to declare their disillusionment with democracy. There is only one exception, the writers of the study say: the phenomenon of Donald Trump, who has been in control for only the first term. If populists do not outperform more mainstream politicians in certain countries, then there will be no substantial shift in young people's attitudes towards democracy.