It’s the politicians, stupid

Many of Spain’s millennials are fed up with dishonest representatives but remain politically engaged

The specter of corruption is driving an ever-greater wedge between young Spaniards and their political representatives, with 51% of the country’s so-called millennials – people born between 1980 and 2000 – saying they have no interest or little interest in politics, a new study by the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS) shows.

Some 85% of young Spaniards say they would vote in an election held tomorrow.
Some 85% of young Spaniards say they would vote in an election held tomorrow.Paco Puentes

A total of 47% people in this age group – a cohort that has been particularly hard hit by Spain’s economic crisis – also feel that their generation is less interested in politics than their parents’ or grandparents’ generation, with “high levels of corruption and broken promises” cited as the prime reasons for this sea change, according to the Millennial Dialogue Spain report, presented in Madrid on Thursday by the Fundación Felipe González think tank.

Just 21% of young Spaniards believe politicians want the best possible future for them against 97% in Germany

“What angers [this group] most of all is dishonesty in general and corruption is the most extreme form of dishonesty, as it involves stealing money that belongs to everyone,” said Fundación Felipe González director Rocío Martínez-Sampere during the presentation of the study, described by its authors as the “most comprehensive and far-reaching international survey of millennials every taken.”

“They are disappointed by people who say but don’t do,” Martínez-Sampere noted on Thursday. But she added that young Spaniards, in contrast to people of their age group in the rest of the world, had not lost interest so much in politics as in politicians themselves: while only 6% of people interviewed by FEPS in Spain said they had attended a political meeting, more than one in four (26%) had taken part in a protest.

The FEPS report – presented on the same day that Spain’s anti-corruption chief stepped down over revelations that he was part owner in a Panama-based firm – shows that 78% of Spain’s millennials feel their opinions are ignored by politicians. That’s against 81% in Italy, 64% in Germany or just 31% in Norway. In addition, 69% of people in this age group believe that the majority of politicians are more interested in older people than in them.

Critically, just 21% of the 1,000 young Spaniards surveyed by FEPS believe politicians want the best possible future for them, compared to 97% in Germany and 78% in Norway. Closer to the Spanish percentage was Bulgaria, where 24% of millennials shared this opinion.

Asked what politicians had to do to regain the confidence of young people, Martínez-Sampere said: “They need to listen and understand in order to get a dialogue up and running.”

In 2017, Spain received its worst-ever ranking in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, coming in at 41st place out of 176 countries, while stories of corruption continue to be a staple of Spanish headlines. Young Spaniards share this societal distrust of politicians: what they are looking for in a politician is someone who gets on with the job of doing politics.

What angers Spain’s millennials most of all is dishonesty in general Rocío Martínez-Sampere, Fundación Felipe González director

When it comes to mainstream politics, Spain’s millennials feel the anti-austerity party Podemos – born out of the 2011 Indignados protest movement in the country – best represents them. In terms of what this age group is looking for in politicians, some 94% want someone who is willing to fight corruption (94%) and 86% a candidate who understands young people (86%).

Anyone fitting these criteria would appear to be guaranteed an electoral shot in the arm. A total of 85% of people taking part in the FEPS survey said they would vote if there were an election tomorrow.

English version by George Mills.

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