Democratic Engagement and Media Uses Amongst the Internet Generation

This source preferred by Roman Gerodimos

Authors: Gerodimos, R.

Start date: 4 April 2005

For many years, scholars studying civic attitudes and political engagement in Western democracies have been arguing that we are facing a “civic malaise” of apathy (cynicism towards democracy) and disengagement (lack of active participation), especially evident as an inter-cohort effect amongst the young. This paper presents the results of a large survey (n=487) conducted amongst undergraduate students in Bournemouth. It is shown that the argument that young people are disengaged is misleading; while traditional forms of political participation that shaped generations from universal suffrage to the era of defreezing social cleavages are declining, the internet generation is engaging into new and alternative forms of community-building and engagement. Seven out of ten participants stated that democracy was “highly” or “totally relevant” to their everyday lives and “quite” or “extremely important” to them personally. An extensive examination of their attitudes towards specific issues and policies shows that young people can indeed make cognitive and affective links between complex set of policies. The role of the news media, and of the internet in particular as a tool of awareness, in young people’s everyday life is reinforced through this study. Our findings imply that we should reframe the debate on youth engagement so as to capture new forms of civic engagement (and efforts to overcome the increasing democratic deficit) and conceptualise the new legitimisation dilemmas that these may cause.

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