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Asia Europe Journal

, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 541–555 | Cite as

Political participation of youth. Young Germans in the European context

  • Wolfgang Gaiser
  • Johann de Rijke
Original Paper

Abstract

Impatience with politics, weariness with political commitment, and individualisation are labels frequently used to characterise the political involvement of young people. Empirical analyses show a rather more complex picture. A basic willingness to become politically involved and to express one’s political opinion is apparent: Indeed, many young people use numerous and varied opportunities to express themselves politically; however, this usually covers only occasional activities. Not surprisingly, participation in some traditional associations has become lower. On the other hand, affinity and commitment to new social movements remain fairly consistent. Participation patterns differ according to gender, education level, and the youth’s place of origin (federal states of the former Federal Republic, or former GDR). These are some of the key results of the follow-up youth surveys carried out by the German Youth Institute. If the comparison between eastern and western Germans is seen in a European perspective, the complex interconnections between the institutionalised political cultures of nations and the participation patterns of young people become apparent. In what kind of institutions and to what extent do young people between 16 and 29 years show political engagement in Germany? What kind of differences can be seen between the new and the old Federal states? Is it possible to identify typical trends of development? Do gender, educational level, value orientations or social background conditions such as unemployment play a role in this regard? In the following, we will endeavour to answer these questions on the basis of empirical research. For this reason, in the following tables and analyses we will particularly focus on the differences between East and West Germany and the temporal development of discrepancies. The question of how specific and changing social institutions influence human attitudes and behaviour can be analysed using the quasi-experiment of 40 years of German division as an example. However, additional aspects reveal themselves and new questions arise by comparing young people across the different European Member States. Hence, we will discuss this additional comparative perspective.

Keywords

Young People Political Party Social Movement Trade Union Political Participation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.German Youth InstituteMunichGermany

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