The Youth Politics Unit at Royal Holloway is a research unit that seeks to address three central questions regarding young people's politics: (1) ‘what does “politics” mean to young people?’; (2) ‘how and why do young people choose to participate in democracy?’; and (3) ‘how can adolescents and young adults be encouraged to participate more widely (and intensely) in various forms of civic and political engagement?’
The unit is concerned to examine young people’s politics in the context of seemingly being on the receiving end of some fairly damaging policies in recent years: cuts to educational grants, the increase in tuition fees, rising youth unemployment and the proliferation of unpaid internships and apprenticeships, and soaring house prices. These have made it harder for young people to get qualifications, get a job and buy a house, which may have left young people in a disadvantaged position relative to older generations and earlier generations of young people. In turn, this may have had a demobilising effect on the electoral participation of young people. Socially excluded young people have sometimes expressed their frustration and lack of hope through political extremism and violence, as illustrated by the rise in support for nationalist parties and riots that have shaken several European countries in recent years.
Why is young people’s politics so important? Young people grow into older voters. The concept of ‘generational replacement’ is the key driving force behind political change and can offer us a window through which to view the future of our democracies. Thus, if we are to understand political participation at all, we must explore how each new generation comes to develop its own conceptions of citizenship and expresses itself through civic and political engagement.
The research unit and its members are dedicated to addressing questions concerning youth and politics through engagement in the academic debate, and to improving efforts to rejuvenate democracy through interaction with politicians and political institutions, public officials, youth advocacy groups, and the media.