New report: Confidence in political institutions and civic engagement

New report on young people's confidence in political institutions and their civic engagement by Dr Eric Fu, Professor Johanna Wyn and Dr Brendan Churchill.


A new report on young people's confidence in institutions like the parliament and the police and their engagement in the community has been released today. The report entitled 'Young Australians' Confidence in Political Institutions and Their Civic Engagement' was authored by Life Patterns Research Fellow Dr Eric Fu, Lead Investigator Professor Johanna Wyn and Life Patterns project manager Dr Brendan Churchill.

Overview of the report

This report explores young Australians’ attitudes toward key political institutions and their civic engagement. Data was collected from the Life Patterns Cohort 2 participants who were 32 years of age in 2020. The report is framed by debates about the expectations that might be held about young people’s political engagement and participation in formal political processes, and the extent to which disengagement is simply an age-based phenomenon or a generational shift in attitudes and approaches, which is reflected in the views of young adults

There are a number of key findings. Young people in our study have a low level of confidence in the key institutions and processes that constitute Australia’s democracy: Australia’s political system, the media, and the Federal Government. Despite this, they revealed a strong commitment in engaging in civic action by helping members of their community, donating to causes, and were keen to be informed about community issues and events. Civic action, while valued, is frequently overshadowed by work, study, family commitment, and high mobility, discouraging young adults from participating in civic activities, and creating a discrepancy between their wishes to be active in civic life and the reality. We conclude that although young adults are alienated from Australia’s political system, do not have a lot of faith in the Federal Government and the media, they nonetheless value democratic principles and processes. This, we refer to as a ‘democracy gap’–a distrust of traditional politics but engaging more with civic society.

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Eric Fu