Youth and Satisfaction with Democracy


Bennett Institute for Public Policy at the University of Cambridge, October 2020.


1. Executive Summary

• In recent years, there has been extensive debate around attitudes to democracy among
younger generations. Yet an absence of rigorous, globally comparative data has hindered
the ability to draw firm conclusions.
• This report takes advantage of the largest-ever global dataset on democratic legitimacy
– combining data from over 4.8 million respondents, 43 sources and 160 countries
between 1973 and 2020.
• Using this combined, pooled dataset, we are able to show how satisfaction with democracy
has changed over time among four generations – millennials, Generation X, baby
boomers, and the interwar generation – over the past quarter of a century, across all
major regions of the world.
• We find that across the globe, younger generations have become steadily more dissatisfied
with democracy – not only in absolute terms, but also relative to older cohorts at
comparable stages of life.
• However, the “populist wave” of 2015 to date signals a possible trend reversal.
• We explore the question of whether populist mobilisation has the potential to reverse
the “democratic disconnect” between youth and democracy – or will only lead to greater
democratic disillusionment in the future.

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