Young. Digital. Engaged?
Political Participation and Information Behaviour of Young People
Young people are increasingly turning to online media and social media platforms to learn about and engage with information about political issues. However, there is little guidance for political parties, policymakers and elected politicians on how to respond to these changes in young people’s information behaviours and how to engage with young people about political issues. This study provides a deeper understanding of how young people in Germany access information about political issues, how they experience communication from political parties and elected politicians and of what successful political communication with young people can look like.
In order to interact with young people on political issues, politicians and political parties need to engage in spaces where young people are present and where they come across infor- mation. For the vast majority of young people in Germany, social networks and online media are key sources of political information. One-size-fits-all approaches that target all young peo- ple should be avoided, because 16- to 24-year-olds use many different strategies to gain in- formation and combine online resources with offline political engagement in different ways.
Crucially, political communication should take into consideration young people’s lived experi- ences and adapt to these especially in terms of language and chosen formats, but also in terms of which kinds of political issues are addressed. It is important for young people that political actors use social media platforms in professional, authentic and interactive ways.
Political parties and elected politicians should offer opportunities for young people to engage with politicians directly, whether that is online or offline, especially in order to address those young people who are otherwise hardly reached. Personal and direct exchange with politicians has the potential to reduce the distance to institutionalised politics that many young people in Germany perceive and can increase their interest in political content. This can include a re- newed focus on school visits post-pandemic, but also has to involve opportunities beyond schools, for example dialogue via social media platforms.
This report summarises the results of the project „Young. Digital. Engaged? Political Partici- pation and Information Behaviour of Young People“, a cooperation between the Bundeskanzler-Helmut-Schmidt-Stiftung (BKHS) and d|part, an independent think tank working on issues of political participation. Based on primary research with 16- to 24-year- olds in Germany and elected politicians as well as secondary data analysis of representative survey data from young people, the project results provide concrete guidance on how political actors and young people can interact and share information on political issues. The policy recommendations in this report were developed jointly by participating young people and elected politicians in Germany and provide a starting point for a successful political exchange – online and offline – between young people and political actors.