Youth Political Participation: The low voter turnout of youth – The case of Cyprus

It is argued by many that young people have been distant from political life and participation lately. Their political participation has been a long concern at the European level. There has been a significant loss of community ties, little interest in and knowledge of political processes, and low levels of trust in politicians and political parties, weakening the sense of political engagement. Young voters, including Generation Z (those aged 18-24) and Millennials (those aged 25-34), are less likely to vote than other groups. The latest Presidential Election proved this in the USA and other European examples such Cypriot Parliament elections. In the first case, young voters had a gap of 15 points compared with the overall turnout in the USA’s presidential elections, which stood at around 51%. In addition, in Cyprus, voters aged between 18-35 had a turnout of 61%, which is considered very low. Therefore, the devaluation of politics by the youth should derive from somewhere.  

The obstacles to this outcome have been at different structural, individual, and organizational levels. In terms of structure, many argue that the age of candidates is often why youth feels they do not find representation. For example, in the case of Cyprus, the average age of the house of representatives is 49,41s. Apart from structural reasons, unique obstacles hinder young people from voting. Young people grew up in a different environment than their parents as they grew up during the 2008 financial crisis, the Covid-19 era, and the ongoing gas crisis. Those created an atmosphere of distrust in political institutions, while the lack of transparency made them feel skeptical about trusting politicians. Young people will turn to political parties when it comes to the organizational level. However, political parties often are involved in political scandals and gain the distrust of youth. Youth prefer not to participate in voting procedures in countries with high corruption indexes.

The low voter turnout to votes, however, is not representative. Young people were historically not voting, but they had alternative participation. They participate in different youth organizations or initiatives that try to change society by voting a representative and bottom-up approaches. However, many initiatives by youth were postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and many are still recovering from the consequences. Now that the world is entering the post-pandemic era, youth should play a vital role in shaping sociopolitical policies within the EU.