Young people’s views on political participation

Ragný Þóra Guðjohnsen, Sigrún Aðalbjarnardóttir


The aim of the study is to explore young people’s attitudes towards political participation, both towards social-movement participation, such as taking part in protecting the environment and advocate for human rights; and towards more conventional participation such as voting. Their attitudes are examined in relation to their understanding of democracy, their empathy level, their parents’ support, and both their own and their parents’ conventional and social-movement participation. The study is a part of the research project, Young People’s Civic Engagement in a Democratic Society. The participants are Icelandic, age 14 and 18, in total 1042. They all responded to a questionnaire and 21 of them were interviewed.
The study’s main findings were: Proportionally more young people emphasized social-movement participation than conventional participation. The more understanding they had of democracy and the higher level of empathy they expressed, the more positive attitudes they had towards social-movement participation. Furthermore, those who experienced more parental support and reported their own or their parents’ conventional and social-movement participation had more positive attitudes towards social-movement participation. Fewer factors were related to the young people’s attitudes towards conventional participation. The more girls found characteristics of democracy important, the more positive attitudes they had towards conventional participation; also, if their parents had participated in political parties.
The interviews revealed that the young people felt social-participation an important way to have a voice, be active, and to have an impact on societal issues. Lack of trust towards authorities reduced their political participation. Also, they called for information about ways and fields to be active.


Political participation; young people; mixed method.

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Published by the Institute of Public Administration and Politics of the Faculty of Political Science, University of Iceland.

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