The influence of social media on youth political participation in European Elections

youth participation european elections

Executive Summary

The next European Parliament (EP) elections will take place in June 2024 and youth electoral turnout still remains a core issue, with an average rate of voter absenteeism 72.2 % for young people between 16 and 24 years and a  voter turnout of less than 25 % in 15 Member States in the 2014 elections. However, in the last elections youth turnout has substantially increased. The European parliament itself has suggested that social media have played a role in this increase. In fact, the European Parliament promoted the “This time I’m voting” campaign and opened a Snapchat account. This suggests that social media are able to generate engagement and to promote a better understanding of the issues most of interest to young Europeans.

In this policy paper, the ideas on how to further engage young citizens are revisited ahead of the 2024 elections. In fact, it was decided to take into account not only the existing evidence in the literature, of which nevertheless a consistent review was provided, but also to gather the sentiment of young people before the next elections. In particular, the focus has been on how to enhance young citizens’ electoral participation through social media, which is their main source of information. In order to gather evidence, we conducted a survey among more than 300 young citizens. This was administered in Italy and Sweden respectively, in order to compare two areas of the European Union that are often perceived as distant. Surprisingly, young people’s electoral behaviours, use of social media and feelings regarding EU elections are quite similar among the two countries, which seems to suggest a common trend among European citizens.

Our main findings suggest that a lot still needs to be done to make the European youth feel more politically engaged. In fact,

  • 12% of the sample is still unsure on whether to vote or not and 2% is already sure it will not vote;
  • 78% is not sure or does not know who the candidates of its districts are;
  • Almost thinks that information regarding European elections and on candidates themselves on social media is not easily accessible. 

However, our survey also shows that social media could play a huge role in changing this scenario, with more than of young citizens affirming that they would be more interested in participating to EU elections if there were more social media contents about it and half of the sample answering that if candidates of their districts used social media more, they would be more incentivized to vote.  

For these reasons, we suggest to European institutions and candidates to implement three new policy proposals that could help reach young citizens more extensively. Namely, we suggest:

  • A larger use of Instagram posts, especially in collaboration with national press, since Instagram stands out as the most utilised social network for obtaining political and social information among young adults and newspaper and journalists pages are primarily followed for this purpose.
  • The creation of videos on Youtube with concrete information regarding European elections and electoral programmes, with a focus on young people’s most engaging topics, which should later be shared in high school and universities. In fact, Youtube is among the three most used social media by young people and videos are the most engaging format in this platform. 

A larger use of TikTok to reach young people, since it is the most used social media among high schoolers and, according to our survey, is used by 70% of those who are not sure whether to vote or not, making the platform a possible target to solicit potential voters.

Download the full report (EN)

Authors: Camilla Borri, Miriana Carioni, Sara Gobetti


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