Study: Majority of millennials dissatisfied with democracy

Greg Nash

More millennials around the world are disillusioned with democracy than previous generations, according to a study released Monday by the University of Cambridge. 

The university’s Centre for the Future of Democracy found that among 18- to 34-year-olds, 55 percent are unhappy with democracy, compared to 45 percent among Generation X, those born between 1965 and 1980. 

The report noted that at no point did a majority of baby boomers, or those born between 1944 and 1964, feel the same amount of dissatisfaction with democracy. 

“This is the first generation in living memory to have a global majority who are dissatisfied with the way democracy works while in their twenties and thirties,” Roberto Foa, lead author of the report from Cambridge’s Department of Politics and International Studies, said in a statement announcing the report’s release. 

The data, collected from more than 4.8 million people around the world since 1973, also found that younger generations have become increasingly disenchanted with democracies in the United States, Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa and southern Europe. 

The report cited that one reason for this growing discontent could be that generations are coming of age “who lack either memory of authoritarian rule or the experience of the democracy struggle.”

According to the statement, researchers argue that, in developed democracies, the biggest contributor to growing dissatisfaction is “economic exclusion” caused by high youth unemployment and wealth inequality. 

Nations with a relatively equal wealth distribution, such as Iceland or Austria, see only minor generation gaps in attitudes to democracy, while those with persistent wealth inequality — such as the U.S. — have growing divides in perceptions of the effectiveness of democracy. 

“Higher debt burdens, lower odds of owning a home, greater challenges in starting a family, and reliance upon inherited wealth rather than hard work and talent to succeed are all contributors to youth discontent,” Foa explained in the statement.

The report also found that pro-democracy attitudes increased in countries that have recently elected populist leaders, including Greece, Spain, Hungary and Poland. 

“Countries electing populist leaders see sharp turnarounds in disenchantment, to the point where young people appear more satisfied with democracy under populists than under moderates,” Daniella Wenger, a co-author of the report, said in the statement.

Tags American democracy austria Cambridge Greece Hungary Iceland Millennials Poland Spain Survey United States

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