Despite Mixed Feelings, Most Young Europeans Plan To Vote in the European Parliament Elections
Elections to the European Parliament will take place this year between May 23rd and 26th. During this period, the 28 member states of the European Union will vote in 751 Members of the European Parliament to represent more than 512 million people.
Ahead of these elections, we conducted an online survey to explore how young people in Europe feel about the EU, the European Parliament and their intention to vote. The survey was carried out in late March/early April among 18 to 34 year olds who are native to each of ten countries (Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, UK). Here’s what we found:
Around half of young Europeans view the European Union positively. Six in ten young people in Europe see the EU as vital for maintaining peace and good relations within Europe. This sentiment is strongest in Germany (66%), Spain (63%) and Poland (62%); lowest in the UK and Netherlands (both at 56%). About half overall agree that EU membership has been good for their country, think the EU is a positive cultural force and a force for good in international politics.
Young Europeans see the EU more as a source of personal opportunity than a community. Among European young adults, 40% perceive the EU as an opportunity for jobs and education, while 32% consider it a community of people and values. Polish young people are most likely to associate the EU with opportunity (56%), while Germans view it primarily as a community (40%).
Some feel that EU membership diminishes their country’s identity. A third (32%) believe the EU undermines their national identity. Young people in the UK (40%) and France (38%) feel this most strongly.
Most are aware of the European Parliament and understand its purpose, but not all see it as valuable. Almost all young Europeans (92%) have heard of the European Parliament and about two-thirds say they understand its work. However, only 40% trust the European Parliament to make the right decisions – with confidence especially low in Greece (23%) and France (33%). A quarter of them (26%) think that the European Parliament is a waste of money and should be shut down.
Young Europeans think that the environment and economy are the most important policy areas for the European Parliament to focus on. The environment (52%) and the economy (50%) are their top policy concerns, followed by immigration (44%), unemployment (42%), health and safety (40%) and national security/terrorism (40%). At the country level, the top policy areas include immigration in Germany (54%) and Greece (53%); unemployment in Greece (60%), Spain (57%) and Italy (50%); health and safety in Hungary (51%); and national security/terrorism in the Netherlands (51%) and Poland (53%).
A majority know about the European Parliament elections and plan to vote. Eight in ten young Europeans (81%) are aware of the European Parliament elections and 65% say they intend to vote. About a quarter (24%) are undecided about whether to vote and 12% say they will not vote.
Feeling disconnected from political parties/candidates and indifference are the main reasons for not planning to vote. Among those who don’t intend to vote, 23% don’t feel represented by the candidates or parties and 22% are simply uninterested. Not feeling adequately represented is highest in Italy (35%) and Greece (34%); lack of interest stands out in France (30%) and the Netherlands (27%).
There may be an opportunity to improve engagement through education. Those who say they understand the European Parliament are much more likely to vote than those who do not (74% vs 46%). More than a third of young Europeans who claim not to understand it say they have not decided about voting – so there could be an opportunity to bolster their engagement by educating them about the European Parliament’s purpose.