Policy Study


This policy study focuses on young people who have experienced socioeconomic disadvantage and their relationship with politics and democracy in Ireland, Poland, and Spain. Complementary research was also carried out in France and Hungary.

Based on qualitative research, this report examines what over 100 young participants from low-income households with an experience of social marginalisation said about their attitudes to politics and democracy. Complemented by insights from over 50 experts in politics, youth work, and academia, this study will help dispel some myths circulating about the causes of democratic disengagement and what they may mean for the future of democracy. It outlines how young people from disadvantaged backgrounds engage with democracy, and how it works or does not work for them.

Despite economic, political, and social differences between the case study countries, young people are sending the same messages. They feel distanced from formal democratic processes and have expressed this via more protest-based, direct action such as their participation in climate action.

However, they value democracy as a principle and do want to engage in a political system that affects local, tangible change in their lives. They also want a political system that enables them to have more of a say in the policy and political decisions that will affect their lives.

Youth and democracy
By Shana Cohen, Matteo Dressler, and Gerry Mitchell

This policy brief sheds light on how young people who are socio-economically disadvantaged perceive politics and democracy in Europe. It analyses how this population group assesses the advantages, weaknesses and ultimately the relevance of political participation and the political decision-making process, as well as, by proxy, the political system itself.

It provides a concise summary of the major FEPS policy study on the same topic, focussing on the main findings and recommendations for stakeholders in the European Union, its Member States and local governments.

These publications were launched during our event ‘Youth support for democracy in Europe‘ on 23 January 2024 at FEPS HQ.


This study is part of the FEPS-led Builders of Progress research series. This research project explores the main concerns and hopes of young Europeans aged 16 to 38. It examines their opinions regarding a wide range of societal issues – including climate change, political participation and the European Union. The research findings intend to stimulate debate and provide informed advice on how to shape a progressive future with and for young people.

Fondation Jean-Jaurès
Fundación Felipe Gonzalez
Institute for Social Democracy (ISD)
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