As we head towards the European parliamentary elections to be held on 22-25 May 2014 across the European Union’s member states, MTV undertook a survey in UK, Italy, France, Spain, and Germany to find out what young people aged 15-34 thought about politics and issues relating to them.

The responses were revealing and imply a political stance amongst younger people that is both value-driven and grown-up, and at all times at odds with media stories indicating opinion drifting towards far-right nationalist parties such as UKIP and Front National.

First and foremost our survey finds a fundamental loss of confidence amongst young people in the political party system. With 76% agreeing that ‘it is increasingly difficult to work out which political party/group will represent the best interests of their country,’ the system for them is effectively broken as it provides unclear choices.

This finding is backed up by opinion polls around Europe, which report a fundamental loss of public confidence not only in the European Union and high levels of dissatisfaction with traditional political parties. Polls also show 64% of Europeans under the age of 30 saying they’re likely TO vote in the 2014 European Parliament elections. This makes the views of young people even more significant for political parties.

But if young people are underwhelmed by traditional political parties, other results do not indicate this void will be filled by nationalist far-right options. Young Europeans are a generation with strong values and especially around key principles such as decent healthcare, cultural diversity and sexual equality, areas where fairness and tolerance come to the fore:

  • 91% believe affordable healthcare should be available to everyone.
  • 71% would be unhappy to see their country turn less culturally diverse.
  • 70% agree government shouldn’t be able to make decisions about who can get married.
  • 68% agree a company’s CEO shouldn’t make more than 25x what the lowest paid employees make.

All clear and perhaps what we would expect from young people, though these values are a warning for more traditional / nationalist political offerings.

On the economy and spending priorities however we see their more practical and hard-headed side. Here we see the impact of a more global, realistic and philosophical view about economic progress as they agree there is a need for the government to do business for politics – 57% saying they believe for a government to reach agreements with financial institutions and big business in order to be successful. And on spending, and in an area (Higher Education) where they are more recent beneficiaries then other generations, additional practicality is revealed as only 15% saying they want taxes raised to improve higher education. Clearly for European young people, when given tough choices Higher Education is not a priority.

Taken as a whole, our survey seems to suggest that young people care deeply about values, especially fairness and tolerance, but they are at the same time able to demonstrate more practical and savvy preferences. This is very much the politics of ‘And’ rather than ‘Or’ and if anything it tends to indicate that there might be space for a new, more centered party to represent European young people rather than the far-right, nationalist ones.

Reuters, 14 April 2014 ‘Europe’s Eurosceptics more united than many think – poll’
Flash Eurobarometer 375