A Study of Youth Political Participation in Poland and Romania

Although perceived changes in political participation patterns amongst young people in recent years have attracted much academic research in established democracies this remains an understudied area in the newer post-communist democracies of Central and Eastern Europe. In established democracies, researchers have shown that although many young people are increasingly shunning traditional forms of political involvement, suchas voting and political party membership, instead they are turning to more direct methods such as volunteering and protest. Despite evidence that young people in newer democracies may also have low levels of electoral participation and party membership, there is little understanding of whether this is due to communist legacies of forced participation, economic and social hardship or indeed reflects trends in established democracies. As active political participation plays a vital role in the improvement of the quality of democracy, this represents an important gap in our knowledge.

The aim of this thesis is to start to address this by analysing the logics behind youth political participation in two contrasting newer democracies, Poland and Romania. To do this, I employ a multi-method comparative approach which combines qualitative findings of fieldwork and quantitative data on electoral turnout. The thesis assesses electoral participation, party membership and involvement in informal forms of participation such as volunteering and protest. It finds that many young people in post-communist democracies choose to opt out of traditional forms of political participation because, as in established democracies, they feel alienated from formal political agents. However, this exit from formal methods of participation is not generally coupled with active participation in informal forms of involvement. The thesis concludes that despite sharing some important characteristics with young people in established democracies, legacies of communism and the rapid nature of post-communist political and socioeconomic transformation continue to negatively influence youth political participation in Poland and Romania.

Resource type: 
Fiona Mary Robertson
University College London (UCL)
Publication year: 

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