Vast majority of young people distrust politicians

By Neil Puffett

| 15 September 2011

Fewer than one in five young people have a positive view of MPs and political parties, according to a study.

Only 15 per cent of young people surveyed considered UK governments to be honest and trustworthy. Image: Ian Bottle

Researchers at Nottingham Trent University found that most young people have an interest in politics, but two-thirds see past and present UK governments as dishonest and untrustworthy.

Young People and Politics in Britain, a study conducted by Professor Matt Henn and Nick Foard, aimed to investigate why less than half of young people (44 per cent) voted in last year’s general election. It involved surveying 18-year-olds who had been eligible to vote for the first time.

The study revealed that just 17 per cent of participants felt positively about political parties and MPs, while the vast majority (81 per cent) held a negative view.

Only 15 per cent considered UK governments to be honest and trustworthy, with 66 per cent saying they were not, and just 13 per cent feeling that there are opportunities to influence the political scene.

Three-quarters (75 per cent) of participants said they believed that no such opportunities existed.

The researchers found that, despite attempts by governments to address the problem of young people’s attitude towards politics, the results were very similar to that of a previous study led by Nottingham Trent University after the 2001 general election.

Professor Matt Henn, lead researcher, said: "Young people’s disengagement with formal politics is still a major problem, despite attempts by recent governments to address the issue and despite evidence that young people are interested in politics and democracy.

"Young people clearly consider the political system as closed, and their experience in their first general election has left them feeling disheartened and frustrated. We have uncovered a considerable aversion to formal, professional politics, which is just as deep as it was a decade ago.

"Finding ways of encouraging young people to engage with politics isn’t just about making it easier to vote, it’s about changing political culture too; we need a concerted effort by parties and politicians, not just in the run up to an election, but beyond."

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