May 13, 2024

Why Don't More Young People Engage with Politicians?

Our Political Lead Charlie Fox reports back on our role in an important project by the LSE on political engagement.

Over the past 4 years, Hope for the Future has partnered with the School of Politics at the London School of Economics (LSE), delving deeper into the theories behind political engagement, how ordinary people can better build impactful working relationships with politicians, and how we can overcome the barriers to building a more inclusive, accessible democracy. 

In previous years, we’ve been lucky enough to explore how communities can have fruitful engagements with their local councillors or how citizens can best make use of unique political processes across the UK. This year, a team of students at the LSE have been investigating how young people engage with climate politics. This is an area rich for further research and one that’s close to our heart. Young people have a huge stake in both the climate and nature crisis but are often unheard in decision making. This pattern also extends to climate-based democratic engagement, where, in the UK, young people are not as prominent as other groups. 

Through a series of semi-structured interviews with young people, in both London and Sheffield as well as including both students and non-students, the research team at LSE was able to learn more about what the climate and nature crises means to young people, how and why they might engage with their politicians to fight the crises, and what barriers they face in climate action. 

While the interview results varied as much as the interviewees, there were some common themes and barriers identified by the research team. 

One of these was trust:

  • Trust in our political systems that action will lead to positive change
  • Trust in politicians to actually listen to communities on the ground. 

Another was knowledge:

  • Many young people feel like they don’t have all the answers but they know they want to do something
  • While just as many felt that they know what the problems and solutions are but have no idea how to navigate the politics. 

Many others expressed their frustrations with the seemingly insurmountable twin issues of the climate crisis and an inaccessible political system. 

At Hope for the Future, we’re excited to be able to integrate these learnings into our work. We’re already exploring what tools activists and community groups can use to engage with politicians that don’t seem to be listening. We’re also looking at how we can support communities to develop an impactful, relationship-led engagement alongside politicians in an atmosphere of unprecedented distrust and need. 

Notably, many of the interviews exposed how important having a space to share advice and frustrations about climate change and political action. This is an area that Hope for the Future is passionate about too. We already host a space for activists and other climate-focused communities in The Climate Village for discussion, sharing tips and successes, and support from our team. It's free to join and we would love to see you and your friends there.

If you’re excited as us to help build a more accessible and community-driven democracy for our planet and its people, don’t hesitate to get in touch. With the General Election coming up this year, it is more crucial than ever to get engaged. You can find our upcoming events and training here

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