A new global study shows that just 57 per cent of young people are in favour of democracy, with 42 per cent drawn to military rule
Newsflash! Democracy is broken, and young people are ready to start searching for alternatives, at least according to a major international survey published last week.
Titled the Open Society Barometer, and published by Open Society Foundations (OSF) – a network founded by the controversial billionaire philanthropist George Soros – the report presents findings from more than 36,000 people across 30 countries, claiming to represent a population of over 5.5 billion people. In total, 86 per cent of respondents said that they want to live in a democracy, with only 20 per cent suggesting that authoritarian rule would be better at delivering “what citizens want”. A win for the people, right? The problem is, those numbers take an alarming turn when it comes to younger populations.
According to the report, only 57 per cent of 18 to 35-year-olds favour democracy over any other form of government. (By contrast, 71 per cent of older respondents said the same thing.) 42 per cent of young people also said that they believe military rule is a good way of running a country, with 35 per cent supporting a “strong leader” who doesn’t bother with a parliament or open elections.
The results are “at once hopeful and sobering,” says Mark Malloch Brown, OSF’s president and a former UN deputy secretary general, in a statement. “Although most people globally still have faith in democracy, that faith is running on fumes. And these findings suggest that it may be set to weaken with each generation.”
To anyone who’s been even vaguely aware of current events over the past few years, these growing doubts about our system of governance won’t come as much of a surprise. As Brown notes: “Today’s young people have grown up and been politicised as the age of polycrisis has emerged, during which forms of climate, economic, technological, and geopolitical turmoil have grown and reinforced each other to a degree never seen before.”
The report itself outlines a number of factors that explain why 53 per cent of respondents now believe their country is heading in the wrong direction, often related to its handling of numerous recent crises. Among the greatest concerns are people struggling to put food on the table, the climate crisis (20 per cent), poverty and inequality (20 per cent), and corruption (18 per cent). Trust in national politicians also ranged widely from country to country, but the global average levelled out at just 30 per cent. In the UK, this dropped to 20 per cent, and results declined even further to 12 per cent in Japan and Senegal, and a mere 10 per cent in Argentina.
On a more optimistic note, human rights remain popular across all countries and income levels, with an overwhelming majority of respondents (95 per cent) saying that it’s unacceptable for governments to remove the human rights of people who don’t look like them. Unfortunately, the report also found a widespread belief that human rights are currently applied selectively – mostly to benefit developed, Western countries.
Needless to say, it’s very unlikely that replacing our democracies with military states, ruled by “strong leaders” with an iron fist, will help expand human rights, fight inequality, and do away with corruption. Nevertheless, the data suggests an uncertain future for democracy as a new generation takes the reins, hungry for change.