According to an Orb Media analysis of data from more than 979,000 people in 128 countries, a growing number of younger adults worldwide who say they are interested in politics are nevertheless rejecting formal political engagement in favour of street protest. There has been a marked increase from the early 2000s, when under-40s were only three per cent who more likely to protest, in today’s time, adults younger than 40 are between nine and 17% more likely to prefer informal political activity than those older than 40.
“We need a more participative young generation to come up and raise their voices and play a bigger role in democracy,” said Shahrul Saari (43) acting chair of Bersih 2.0, a Malaysian democracy watchdog. While surveys reveal that the most desired form of government is democracy, yet fewer young people are joining as volunteers, party members, or campaigners and this participation gap is widening as more youth choose informal politics and more older adults avoid protest.
There are various reasons for this ambivalence. Many young activists prefer horizontal, digitally-networked movements to top-down legacy organisations. Some countries lack a motivating ideological battle. “Younger adults prefer the anti-establishment,” said Mattia Forni (27), an Italian analyst for the pollster Ipsos.