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29 November, 2009

Young people say politicians are still the best people for the job

Politicians can’t give straight answers, have abused their expenses and make promises they can’t keep – but they are they best people for the job say young people.

Despite the MPs' expenses scandal and the near-collapse of the global economy, a significant majority of Britain's young people still intend to vote.

A poll carried out in November by YouGov on behalf of the Citizenship Foundation to be launched at the Foundation's 20th anniversary reception has found that:

  • 64 per cent of young people intend to vote when they are eligible to do so*;
  • 90 per cent feel that politicians do not give straight answers to questions;
  • They are less likely, it seems, to vote for charities or celebrities to run the country than mainstream politicians;
  • They want more school time spent on politics, economics and the law.

Chief Executive of the Citizenship Foundation, Dr Tony Breslin, commented on the results of the survey:

‘Though the young people we surveyed display a heartening commitment to voting, politicians and the so-called political class would be wrong to read the outcomes from this poll as indicating an endorsement of the status quo. Young people - worried about the recession, climate change and international conflict - want more from those who represent them, not less, as the low levels of trust they put in Westminster politicians clearly indicates'.

The poll, commissioned by the Citizenship Foundation to mark its 20th year, investigated nearly 4000 young people's attitudes towards political participation, politicians and power in the UK.


The respondents stated that the top three qualities they rate most highly in politicians are honesty and trustworthiness (61 per cent), a willingness to speak out on controversial issues (49 per cent) and a clear commitment to particular policies (37 per cent).

But they do not identify these qualities as common in politicians today: 90 per cent of young people surveyed feel that some or most politicians do not give straight answers to questions. 44 per cent think that some or most politicians accept bribes, 85 per cent perceive politicians to have misused official expenses and allowances and 88 per cent think politicians make promises they can't keep. It is not surprising that the majority of young people surveyed - 67 per cent - do not trust Westminster's politicians.

However, despite their dim view of politicians, given the chance young people would not vote for charities (such as Oxfam and Amnesty International) or celebrities to lead the country over mainstream parties. The X Factor judges - if they were to form their own political party - would fare particularly poorly with young people: 85 per cent would be unlikely to vote for Simon, Louis, Dannii and Cheryl, appearing to prefer traditional politicians leading the country.


Far from being apathetic, most young people intend to vote when they are able to and a political party's position on particular issues is what most (73 per cent) will base their decision on when it comes to a General Election. Young people want to learn more about politics and economics and identify these as areas of understanding that schools should do much more to develop.

The recession is the issue of late that has most increased young people's interest in politics, the poll found, suggesting that young people are sensitive to current affairs. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the MPs' expenses scandal came in near-equal second as issues that have inspired young people to care about politics.

When asked which issues young people are most likely to campaign on, there was a clear majority for international problems (35 per cent), followed by local

(25 per cent) and national issues (22 per cent).


Young people are clear on who they see as influential: business, politicians and the press, but have little trust in any of these. They see the media as especially influential (particularly in regards to government decision-making) but they do not trust the press, especially the tabloid press. This is in stark contrast to the group that 72 per cent of young people surveyed believe should have the most power over government decisions: the public.

The Citizenship Foundation's 20th birthday

To celebrate its 20th birthday the Citizenship Foundation will hold a special event at the Law Society on 30th November 2009, marking two decades of the Foundation's work to encourage and enable individuals to engage effectively in their communities and in democratic society at large. The event will showcase the charity's education and active learning projects, as well as its vision for the future in light of the research conducted on behalf of the Citizenship Foundation by YouGov.

The newly appointed Minister for Young Citizens and Youth Engagement, Dawn Butler MP, and the Shadow Attorney General, Edward Garnier QC MP, will speak at the reception on the importance of citizenship and public legal education for young people.

* In a scale of 0-10 on likelihood to vote, this figure refers to those who selected 8 or higher.

Further information

To find out more please email:

Notes for editors:

Media contact

Weekend: Tony Breslin, tel: 07973 885 915 or 0208 950 8779 or tony.breslin@googlemail.com

Weekday: Emma Doyle at the Citizenship Foundation, tel: 020 7566 4134 or email emma.doyle@citizenshipfoundation.org.uk

Notes to Editors:

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 3,994 14 - 25 year olds. Fieldwork was undertaken between 18th - 25th November 2009. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of 14 to 25 year olds based on age, gender, region and student status.

The full results from the survey can be accessed here from midday on Sunday, 29 November: http://www.yougov.co.uk/extranets/ygarchives/content/pdf/Citizenship_TOPLINES.pdf

Dr Tony Breslin is available for interview. Andrew Phillips (Lord Phillips of Sudbury OBE) will be available for interview on the evening of 30th November only.

About the Citizenship Foundation

The Citizenship Foundation is an independent education and participation charity (no.801360) which aims to empower individuals to engage in the wider community through education about the law, democracy and society. Founded in 1989, it focuses on developing young people's citizenship skills, knowledge and understanding. Its work includes resources, training, active learning programmes, community projects and research. www.citizenshipfoundation.org.uk

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Charity Reg. No. 801360 Company Reg No. 2351363 Registered in England Registered Office as above

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