What hope do we have? Millennials are history’s most disillusioned generation

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Millennials are more disillusioned than any other generation in history, says a new study from the Centre for the Future of Democracy at the University of Cambridge.

Faith in democratic politics may well be at an all-time low for most generations, but it’s lower for millennials than any other age group.

In what was hoped would be a “wake-up call” for politicians back in December 2019, an Australian National University (ANU) report revealed that public trust in government was at an all-time low.

The Australian Election Survey of 2100 voters found that 25 per cent said people in government could be trusted – the lowest trust levels since the post-election survey’s inception in 1960.

In 2007, trust in democracy was at an all-time high. A little more than decade later, it hit bottom.

“I’ve been studying elections for 40 years, and never have I seen such poor returns for public trust in and satisfaction with democratic institutions,” said lead researcher Professor Ian McAllister.

“This is a wake-up call.

“Winning back the people’s trust and satisfaction would appear to be one of the most pressing and urgent challenges facing our political leaders and institutions.”

It seems governments are still not yet ‘woke’.

But it’s not just Australia’s government that is guilty of uninspiring politics.

Earlier this year, a Centre for the Future of Democracy report found that dissatisfaction with democratic politics in developed nations had increased from a third to half of all individuals over the last quarter of a century.

From Europe to Africa, as well as Asia, Australasia, both Americas and the Middle East, dissatisfaction with democracy jumped from 47.9 per cent in the mid-90s to 57.5 per cent in January 2020.

According to the researchers, 2019 “represented the highest level of democratic discontent on record”.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

And it may have been the best thing to restore trust in Australia’s government.

At the outset of the pandemic in Australia, two-thirds of Australians felt the government was handling COVID-19 well.

Australians are still satisfied with the government’s handling of the crisis, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison “well ahead in terms of being viewed as competent in his handling of the outbreak, followed by Giuseppe Conte, then Boris Johnson, and then Donald Trump”, according to a September 2020 IPSOS report.

However, globally, distrust and dissatisfaction in democracy is at an all-time high, says the largest ever study of attitudes towards global democracy, which revealed how, in almost every global region, 18–34 year olds are the least satisfied with democracy.

Almost five million respondents of all ages in more than 160 countries between 1973 and 2020 were asked about their degree of satisfaction with democracy in their country.

The study, conducted by Cambridge researchers collaborating with the HUMAN Surveys Project, revealed that millennials are more disillusioned with democracy than generation X or baby boomers were at the same stage of life.

“This is the first generation in living memory to have a global majority who are dissatisfied with the way democracy works while in their 20s and 30s,” said Dr Roberto Foa, lead author of the report from Cambridge’s department of politics and international studies.

“By their mid-30s, 55 per cent of global millennials say they are dissatisfied with democracy, whereas under half of generation X felt the same way at that age. The majority of baby boomers – now in their 60s and 70s – continue to report satisfaction with democracy, as did the interwar generation.”

At the turn of the century, satisfaction with democracy among millennials was higher than in their parents’ generation.

However, since the global financial crisis of 2008, millennials have lost faith harder and faster than preceding generations.

And while history may suggest that younger generations’ attitudes towards politics and authority soften with age, it seems both millennial and gen X trust levels are still steadily waning.

“In fact, the idea that young malcontents soften in attitude as they age is now reversed the world over,” says a Eureka Alert report.

“Millennials and gen Xers have grown steadily less satisfied with democracy as they have advanced in life.”

‘Economic exclusion’ may be to blame for this attitude, with high youth unemployment and wealth inequality the strongest predictors of the satisfaction age gap.

“Higher debt burdens, lower odds of owning a home, greater challenges in starting a family, and reliance upon inherited wealth rather than hard work and talent to succeed are all contributors to youth discontent,” said Dr Foa.

“Right across the world, we are seeing an ever widening gap between youth and older generations on how they perceive the functioning of democracy.

“This democratic disconnect is not a given, but the result of democracies failing to deliver outcomes that matter for young people in recent decades, from jobs and life chances to addressing inequality and climate change.”

Still, there have been glimmers of hope for democracy, mainly due to a ‘populist wave’ of the past five years.

It seems younger people like populist leaders of both left and right.

“Countries electing populist leaders see sharp turnarounds in disenchantment, to the point where young people appear more satisfied with democracy under populists than under moderates,” said report co-author Daniella Wenger.

Populism feeds on division,

“The prevalence of polarising attitudes among millennials may mean advanced democracies remain fertile ground for populist politics.

“The populist challenge must shock moderate parties and leaders into action beyond cosmetic rebrands. If it does so, populism may still prompt democracy’s rebirth, rather than the onset of its gradual decay,” said Dr Foa.

Are you satisfied with democracy? Do you feel younger generations have good cause to be dissatisfied with democracy?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

76 Comments

Total Comments: 76
  1. 0
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    democracy is what ever the current govt says it is , we have what ever rights they choose to give us or not

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    Roll on the inevitable revolution! Democracy has failed every sector of the community except our political masters and their wealthy cronies – they are all doing very well, thanks for asking. Every society throughout history has reached its peak and then failed – we are probably next and the current generation of young people have every reason to lay the blame at our feet. Maybe the anarchists have got it right after all.

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      I totally agree with you Buggsie. The current distrust and clear criminality of the politicians and wealthy is the stuff of revolution. And many of those who might wave it have trained in on-line warfare.

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      I agree with both Buggsie and ozjames70.

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      I don’t believe anarchism is the answer at all, but our definition of democracy is the problem. How can we say we have democracy when both dominant political parties take donations. For what? No kickback?

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      What is a realistic alternative? Mob rule? Communism? – we know now about the millions of deaths from Communism; Islam – remembering it is a political ideology which essentially makes females the property of men, condemns homosexuality and does not allow freedom from or of religion. If your father is Muslim you are considered to be a Muslim even if you are raised by your mother in a different faith and can be executed for apostasy in some countries.

      Anarchists destroy the society in which they live. They have yet to demonstrate that they are capable of rebuilding a better society on the ashes of the past.

      Democracy has its problems but doesn’t seek to kill people because they have different opinions. If enough people are dissatisfied with the government of the day then there is the option of getting rid of it and installing a new government. The alternative has to appeal to the majority of the people otherwise we have a de facto one party system. In the ACT in Australia we have a defacto one party system of the left (by the next elections, the same party will have been in power for 24 years). The potential opposition has failed to get its act together and has been pursuing policies which are not attractive to the majority of people. For them to win government they need to get a significantly higher percentage of the vote than the Labour Party as the minor parties will support the Labour Party even when the Liberal party gets the largest share of the vote).

  3. 0
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    The country is now run by spin doctors and lobby groups .Union membership down so will wages decrease.There is now no one to stop the greed is good group doing what ever the country will take.As they say you only get the Government you deserve .

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      I don’t think that I deserve the current government – after all, they were mostly voted in by the wealthy, the brainwashed and those rusted on one party voters who never think for themselves.

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      Union membership down because ‘the workers’ are able to choose whether to join or not. That is democracy. Clearly ‘the workers’ don’t see the value in the union or they would sign up.

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      So Buggsie you agree that the LNP create more wealth than the other mob, if the majority of wealthy people vote LNP and the LNP get voted in, that must mean that they are in the majority? As for the hardened voters for a particular party I can only agree, I live in the Illawarra and there has always been a strong vote for Labor, the result is that no matter which party gets in we get overlooked, Labor doesn’t need to give us anything and the LNP have given up trying to get a foot in the door. This applies at both Federal and State governments, so we are screwed no matter who gets in.

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      Buggsie, the LNP were mostly voted in by Queensland. If you take the Qld results out of the last election, Labor actually won.

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      And that matters because, Fedup? Surely you don’t seriously believe we would have a better democracy, better government, or healthier society if Labor won? If so, you are one of the ‘rusted on’ who have supported the destruction of democracy.

      We don’t have a democracy, because the people are not being represented appropriately by the politicians they elect. Power cells form to dictate policy that pleases certain sectors, often based on the financial support the sector offers, and politicians are compelled to comply with the dictates of the power cells. The theory behind our system works, but the practice fails because of greed and corruption and the seemingly unbreakable two-party system. Both parties are equally bad. Independents and minors can’t break through the two-party stranglehold to do any good, no matter how sincere they may be – and many are not, but simply stand for election with a hidden agenda of their own.

      KSS is right about the unions. I am only one among millions who resented being forced into a union and took the first available opportunity to exit. The unions are just as corrupt as any politician and their leaders are just as greedy. And unions operate as power cells, dictating Labor Party policy and financing Labor Party activities. They carry a great deal of blame for the death of democracy.

  4. 0
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    Real democracy works well, especially in smaller communities where all individuals are valued. What we have is nothing like a democracy. The only ones who are valued are the pollies themselves, who then continue to award themselves ridiculous money, bonuses and pensions, and Cartier watches.

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      And give house keys to their corrupt lovers.

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      Totally agree if it was a real democracy, but our preference system means whoever you vote for, it it one of the two big parties or their coalitions. To call it a democracy is rubbish.

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      The preferential system isn’t the problem, ozjames70. The ignorance of voters who stupidly allocate preferences according to instructions issued by parties is the problem. No party or politician gains a preference unless the voter allocates that preference. All the deals in the world collapse if voters wake up to themselves.

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    I wonder has this dissatisfaction with governments spread into Communist countries e.g. China Russia, North Korea??
    I wonder sometimes if these countries are sowing the seeds of discontent
    with all the rallies and media reporting.

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      Don’t think so. Look at the issues we face – 1% of the Aus population owns and controls 90% of the wealth, there are no long term plans for the future, aged care is a mess and unlikely to be helped by the outcome of the Royal Commission given the current opposing positions of the two Royal Commissioners, the economy has tanked and was already on the way long before Covid 19 hit, real unemployment is around 10% not 6.9 as the LNP govt says. Seems as if we have done it all ourselves – we don’t need help from China, with its booming economy and long term plans for the future. The phrase “garbage in, garbage out” used by computer programmers applies equally to our current LNP govt in Canberra these days.

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      No Sen.Cit.90 because those regimes don’t allow dissent. And it is almost impossible to get a good cup of coffee, artisian beer or a good chardonay there as well. It would be far too uncomfortable for people dissatisfied here to move there and be happy.

      And Yes there is very much foreign state interference in Australia particularly China. And they do it through the student body in particular along with spying on Chinese migrants, putting pressure on ethnic Chinese business owners and the like all to push the China messaging. Russia is not far behind, it is just not as obvious. Look at the poisonings of Russian dissedents abroad.

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      There are people ‘behind the scenes’ trying to obtain global control. To achieve this capitalism has to be crushed, and that is what’s going on at this present time. Then socialism will be able to, as it always has done, bring all of us to our knees financially and enable that control to take hold. Watch the YouTube videos of Prof. Walter Veith for instance, and you’ll see how this has all been planned, and not just recently.

  6. 0
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    “Populism feeds on division” …. HUH? Silly me for thinking that “populism” was a synonym for “democracy”

    ALSO: If only we had citizen-initiated referendums, as they have in Switzerland, and gave citizens the power to sack incompetent/lying politicians, then my trust in democracy would be revived.

    Maybe then politicians would not go against the will of the majority and waste huge amounts of money to virtue signal on the globalwarmingSCAM.

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      You have the power to “sack incompetent/lying politicians” it’s called democracy through the ballot box!

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      “it’s called democracy through the ballot box!” …. Yeah right every 3 or 4 years.
      In between, the pols are virtual dictators.
      A citizen initiated referendum would keep them on their toes and stop them from engaging in tricks such as changing party allegiance after being voted in.

    • 0
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      Spot-on Channeling.
      I’ve suggested looking at Switzerland’s method of government a number of times on this forum.

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      ChannelingOrwell and you would get nothing done because polititians would be too scared of taking the hard decisions for fear of upsetting the squeakey gates.

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      “polititians would be too scared of taking the hard decisions”

      GOOD!

      By “hard decisions” you obviously mean UNPOPULAR decisions against the welfare of the community, such as a useless, sneakily introduced, carbon tax which Tony Abbot thankfully repealed after a landslide election victory promising to abolish it.

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      Wasn’t a citizen-initiated referendum one of Pauline Hanson’s policies, CO? She seems to have forgotten about it.

    • 0
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      KSS wrote “polititians would be too scared”… EXACTLY HOW THEY SHOULD BE!

      “When government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.” Not sure who said it ….

      Bring on more power to the people!

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      You can’t sack politicians because the backroom deals protect them. Oh yeah, these imbeciles on over $500K per year also have memory problems. When I look at politicians who have grown their personal wealth 20 times in two terms, but can’t run a State or a Country, it becomes clear we are all being played for suckers.

    • 0
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      KSS :You have the power to “sack incompetent/lying politicians” it’s called democracy through the ballot box!”
      You WOULD have democracy through the ballot box IF you didn’t have preference votes going to parties/people you hadn’t voted for.
      It should be ONE PARTY, ONE VOTE! There should be no preference votes at all!

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      jaycee1, votes don’t go to anyone YOU didn’t vote for unless YOU mark the ballot paper accordingly. Parties can only recommend how you allocate your preferences. They can’t dictate to you. The problem is people’s ignorance. If everyone stopped reading ‘how to vote’ cards and simply voted according to their own personal preferences, preferential voting would work a treat – actually better than first past the post. The theory is sound. It’s the implementation that is problematical and that’s solely down to the ignorance of the population. Your best defence is to tell everyone you know to ignore how to vote cards and ignore advice as to how to number preferences. Vote 1 for your preferred party, 2,3 etc. for YOUR preferred second, third and fourth etc. choices.

  7. 0
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    A true democratic government is judged by the media that is something that is missing in this country when one billionaire who supports one party owns 70% of our media and spreads propaganda and lies and governments are not held accountable then you find corruption and incompetence and that is what is happening in Australia.

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      What about the ratbags on social media exercising their “democratic rights” to spread fake news, nothing but lies and propaganda believed by the masses in their millions.

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      “What about the ratbags on social media exercising their “democratic rights” to spread fake news”

      FYI: That’s democracy!
      Anything less is undemocratic CENSORSHIP such as we currently see on Facebook & Twitter censoring conservatives, the Biden crime family exposé & any opinions they don’t like!

      Anyone should be able to see all opinions and make their own judgement on their veracity.

      That’s democracy.
      Ollie apparently hates democracy and free speech.

    • 0
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      Our justice system works on the premise that if you make an accusation you must provide proof or the accused is innocent. Therefore, Biden is innocent.

  8. 0
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    As usual contributors sheeting this to the Government.

    What about what is being taught in schools and universities? Just this week we find out that the number of kids sitting the HSC that cannot actually read or write and have to have the questions read to them has more than doubled! Meanwhile they are very conversant in climate change activism, gender fluidity, LGTBIQ rights (no responsibilities), Marxism ideology towards family and society, BLM (not All lives matter note) and general civil disobedience – they just can’t write about it! The massive thrust to rewrite national and international history is so ridiculous given those defacing Cook’s statues don’t even know what he actually stood for (and it wasn’t about destroying Aboriginal populations!).

    It is no wonder then that democracy may seem under pressure. It is not discussed, diverity of opinions is not allowed even in teritary education, free speech has been under threat for years, people tell lies in polls (which is why the polsters get it so wrong) because they do not want to be publically denounced. Mr Morrison is quite right in his description of the “quiet Australian”. To be otherwise is to subject yourself to public ridicule at best and loss of livlihood at worst with the public pile on through social media to be expected if you even hint at descent. Just take a look at comments on this forum to see this cannot be contested.

    • 0
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      KSS you make all of my points for me, thanks.

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      KSS, you are so right! I argued with a university student about an incident in history that I witnessed first hand. She insisted it didn’t happen, but later admitted that she knew it did but her professor would fail her if she acknowledged the truth about the matter.

      History books have been rewritten to lie about that particular aspect of history. I wrote to Kevin Rudd when he was Prime Minister asking him to acknowledge it and he replied that it never happened. A friend then wrote a book about it but no less than 20 publishers declined to print it, saying it was ‘politically incorrect and socially unacceptable to expose this particular truth’.

      I am now watching as my granddaughter is indoctrinated with the BLM rubbish, LGTBIQ rights, gender fluidity, etc. She IS highly literate and intelligent, but she is being brainwashed in university. I suspect she actually knows the theories she is touting are BS, but doesn’t dare to stand up for her beliefs because she would be ostracized. (I recall the vicious attacks on anyone who declared their opposition to same sex marriage in the lead up to that referendum.) She has been deceived about history – taught from texts that rewrote stories of the past to please vested interest groups. And she is being deceived – as we all are – by false statistics from studies and surveys rigged to support the demands of vested interest groups.

  9. 0
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    Democracy really does mean “Majority rules”. And the poor snowflakes don’t realise, nor want to accept that not everyone gets everything that they want.
    The “millenials” are a generation that have never had it so easy. They are born into a standard of living that preceding generations could only dream of and it is the preceding generations have built it so that it is so good now.
    Every thing that can make life easy and interesting is within reach for those prepared to make an effort. All the necessities and luxuries of life are affordable when one is realistic about what is needed versus what is wanted.
    The discontent is along the lines of wanting the free icecream but complaining if they have to get out of bed and actually go out to get it.
    The jobs are there, just maybe not their dream job.
    Housing is affordable, just maybe not in the suburb or town of first choice and not the four bedroom (each with ensuites) and both a formal and informal dining room with ocean views.
    The democracy that we enjoy in Australia may not always give us our first choice of representative, but all are accessible to everyone in the electorate.
    Every citizen of this country can form their own political party and stand for election, or just stand as an independent. We can all shape the democratic future that we believe in.
    Every one living in Australia at present has the probability of a long, healthy and free life as long as they don’t let the ratbag left of politics take it all away from us.

    • 0
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      Dream on, Couldabeen! Your premises are based on us having an electorate that could give a sh..t.

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      Couldabeen, I agree with a lot of what you say. Certainly ‘millenials’ want it all right now, without having to exert any effort, and the realists among them (and there are some) are being silenced by vested-interest media singing lies about how hard it is for the poor little darlings.

      What I don’t agree with, though, we have a democracy. The problem we face is that although we can theoretically elect the representative we want, that representative will be either compelled by party rules to vote according to the dictates of vested-interest power groups (regardless of the interests of those he/she was elected to represent) or will be suppressed and disempowered by the strength of the vested-interests power groups and the political party they support.

      Media indoctrination, corrupted statistical data, untruthful rewrites of history, and the activities of power cells (such as unions, industry lobby groups, etc) have destroyed any hope of us having real democracy.

      Even if we ‘had an electorate that could give a shit’ (to use Buggsie’s turn of phrase), the people in that electorate would struggle to sift fact from popular fiction and would be unable to influence sensible policy because of the corruption in the media, schools and universities, unions, and other power cells.

  10. 0
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    “Are you satisfied with democracy? Do you feel younger generations have good cause to be dissatisfied with democracy?”

    The alternative to democracy is too awful to contemplate. Democracy as a system, whilst not ideal, is way ahead of any other form of government. Australia enjoys democracy with a benign Monarchy and if the way we are being led by various governments is not acceptable then it’s not democracy that is at fault. The fault lies with the way we choose our representatives, not the system that gives us that choice. Recent elections have given us smear and negativity from all sides of politics rather than positivity and policies.

    For some years Australia has moved slightly away from the two party system with voters choosing to support minor parties or Independents. This has led to more scrutiny when the ruling party wants to have contentious legislation passed without being “rubber stamped”. What Australia needs is the truth in advertising laws to be extended to cover political promises and political parties being brought to book when promises are not achieved or simply forgotten about.

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      That would help, Horace Cope, but we also need an end to media lies and corrupted surveys and studies, rewrites of history, and other abuses of the power to influence public opinion.

      We need to break the two-party system completely and put an end to power cells (like unions and industry groups, for example) influencing political policy. It’s far more complex than just implementing truth in advertising laws. We also have to have a way to ensure open debate and truthful reporting. Even Facebook and Twitter now claim the right to dictate policy by controlling public opinion.

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