Overall, electoral participation has been declining in democratic countries for the last generation, as has party membership.1 Many factors have been blamed for this weakening of the foundation of representative democracy – including the lack of clear distinctions between the political choices offered to voters and the constraints on political discretion in an age of globalization.
My own work, beginning in the late 1990s, focused on the relationship between political participation and political knowledge. I found that the decline in one tended to be accompanied by a decline in the other (see figure 1). Moreover, countries with relatively high levels of political knowledge – I use the term civic literacy – tended to exhibit high levels of political participation. I argued that effective policies in education (including related institutions like libraries), the structuring of political institutions (including proportional voting systems as opposed to first-past-the-post) and – most important of all – the media2 could ensure a reasonably high level of political participation.
In recent years it has become clear that the decline has a significant generational component, something we observe in the mitigating role of the family. Hence, whether young voters live with their parents matters in explaining their participation.3 A case in point is the apparently positive effect of Austria’s reduction of the voting age to 16. This is confirmed by data from Norway, which experimented with voting at 16 in selected municipalities in its 2011 local elections and attained 58 per cent turnout among those 16 and 17, compared to 45 per cent among those 18 to 30.4 Other data have shown that civic education targeted at those lacking the requisite family background can also have a positive effect.5
But such measures, it would appear, only slow down the generational decline. While the causes of lower participation may be multiple, a universal factor is the radically changed media environment for those who reached maturity in the years of the Internet, relative to previous generations. This is not a matter of technological fixes like e-voting, whose effect so far is marginal, but of something more profound. For previous generations, policies such as state support for newspapers and public service radio and television boosted political participation in the high civic literacy countries. But we do not have parallel measures that could have a similar effect on the Internet generation at our disposal.6
Just what can we expect from this generation? This is the question I pose here, inspired by recent events in Quebec. My contention is that there is an incompatibility between “social media politics” as understood and experienced by the Internet generation and representative democracy as we have known it. Furthermore, I reluctantly conclude that addressing this incompatibility may entail adopting some form of electronic direct democracy. These are contentious assertions that need, first, to be placed in historical context.
Changes over time
By the 1920s a consensus had emerged in Western societies: everyone should be educated and every adult should be able to vote. In exceptional cases, such as a few Swiss cantons, this took the form of direct democracy (for men only). But the norm became a combination of universal suffrage and party-based representative democracy: educated adult citizens had the ability and interest to distinguish among party programs and cast at least minimally informed votes.
The norm survived some glaring anomalies, most notably the totalitarian politics of left and right in the 1930s. At the time, movements that rejected representative democracy enjoyed a great deal of electoral success. The New Left of the 1960s contained elements opposed to electoral politics, but by the 1970s most radical movements sought not to overturn representative democracy but to make the system live up to its billings. It is tempting to see a resurrection of this ideal in the actions of the Internet generation. However, I contend that we are seeing something different: a passive rejection of representative democracy, comparable neither to the 1930s nor the 1960s and 1970s. The crucial difference is the media environments in which the respective movements emerged.
The mainstream of the youth movement that emerged in the 1960s sought student representation in the halls of academe and worker representation on corporate boards. While it took aim at establishment politicians, it did not reject party politics. In Canada, the best-organized generational movement was the “Waffle,” a faction within the NDP. In the United States, the movement embraced anti-establishment candidates in the Democratic Party: Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern and Robert Kennedy. In this it reflected the position that participatory democracy was a supplement to representative democracy, as articulated in Students for a Democratic Society’s 1962 Port Huron Manifesto:
Two genuine parties, centered around issues and essential values, demanding allegiance to party principles shall supplant the current system of organized stalemate … What is desirable is sufficient party disagreement to dramatize major issues, yet sufficient party overlap to guarantee stable transitions from administration to administration …
Mechanisms of voluntary association must be created through which political information can be imparted and political participation encouraged. Political parties, even if realigned, would not provide adequate outlets for popular involvement. Institutions should be created that engage people … organized around single issues (medical care, transportation systems reform, etc.), concrete interest (labor and minority group organizations), multiple issues or general issues.
In the 1960s the reform politics of the United States was not exceptional; this was, as Daniel Bell famously labelled it, the time of “the end of ideology.” Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society was not unlike reform programs in Canada and western Europe, and many of the demands of the youth movement found their way into policies, especially those that sought to end discrimination based on race and gender.
This is not to deny the subsequent emergence of an American exceptionalism. Prior to the 1970s, the U.S. South was a partner, albeit an uncomfortable one, with other elements of the Democrats’ New Deal coalition. In the 1970s the expanding South became Republican, which simultaneously weakened the Democrats and brought a more conservative Republican Party closer to electoral predominance. Bolstered by institutional perversities that gave large powers to legislators from small states and to well-financed narrow-focus lobbies, the American right achieved an ideological prominence far greater than that of its counterparts in most industrial countries. This dynamic, manifested most recently in the Tea Party movement, has been legitimized by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling which, as one commentator put it, made it impossible to stop the flow of “legally laundered cash in Washington” that “soils everything it touches.”7
One reaction to U.S. Tea Party politics has been Occupy Wall Street (OWS), which not inaccurately has cast the United States as a plutocracy of the 1 per cent, potentially rendering representative democracy meaningless. Given the institutional inertia, there may be some objective grounds for seeing representative democracy as unable to bring about change in the post–Citizens United USA. But OWS has failed to find much fertile ground outside the United States, where the 1 (or 5 or 10) per cent is nowhere near as institutionally entrenched. In representative democracies outside the United States, generally speaking, the system continues to perform. Despite public perception to the contrary, Elin Naurin shows in her recent study of 11 countries that parties that gain power in fact keep most of their election promises – roughly 60 per cent on average.9
The challenge we face
At least outside the United States, objective factors do not explain the democratic deficit reflected in declining voter turnout and party membership. Instead, we need to return to generational developments, specifically to the media environment of the Internet generation. We do not yet have data that test the contention directly, but we do have some indications that the Internet generation relates to the political world differently from generations that came before.
We are here talking about, roughly, people aged 18 to 30 or 35. If the thesis is correct, the most evident change in political participation between those who reached voting age in the 1990s and their elders should emerge in a comparison between their voting performance and that of the previous generation when it was that age. Spanish researcher Gema García Albacete has combined turnout data from seven major European countries. Not only did young people in 1974 vote more than young people in 2002, but the biggest change was among those 21 to 35.10 Similarly, Norwegian data show the biggest gap in turnout (15 per cent) to be between those 21 to 30 and those 30 to 40.11
The same pattern emerges in Canadian data. Table 1 shows turnout data from a paper published for Elections Canada.12 Compared to the generation reaching voting age before the 1990s, the Internet generation votes significantly less at age 18 and continues to vote less at age 35.
Staying with Canada, let us turn to events in Quebec. A good place to start is with the July 2012 manifesto of CLASSE, the largest of the groups behind the student protests. It covers the same ground as the Port Huron Manifesto, but the tone is fundamentally different. Representative democracy is explicitly dismissed in the name of something reminiscent of the Bolshevik slogan “All power to the soviets”:
Our vision is of a direct democracy called into action at every moment. It’s a vision of a We that is expressed in assemblies: at school, at work and in neighbourhoods. Our vision is of the population taking permanent control of politics, at the base, as the primary site of political legitimacy.
Their democracy – it only happens once every four years and too often only serves to change faces. Election after election, the decisions remain the same and serve the same interests; the soft whispers of the lobbies are preferred to the jangle of pots and pans.
How is it that an organization directly or indirectly representing more than 200,000 young Quebecers, few of whom are altermondialistes like the CLASSE leaders, can rhetorically dismiss electoral politics so readily? It is my contention that the student organizations, in their actions, gave voice to something implicit in social media politics, which in effect constitutes the rejection of representative democracy. It is true, as we shall see, that the events of summer 2012 contradicted CLASSE’s dismissal of electoral democracy. But this may prove to be ephemeral, and we may very well see in the events of 2012 an important moment in the Internet generation’s rejection of representative democracy. (Note that representative democracy is by no means limited to voting: it includes all the activities that directly or indirectly affect the choices of elected representatives. In addition to voting and party-related political activities, these include activities designed to mould public opinion on political issues.)
The implications of these developments are immense, and I shall return to them further on. Suffice it to say here that while a minority of politically uninformed and uninterested citizens has always been with us, we see now a growing part of our population ready to act in ways that undermine the decisions taken through the processes of representative democracy. Under most circumstances, this dismissal of representative democracy is expressed as a lack of interest and involvement in the political process. However, in acute situations, such as the fiscal crisis in Greece or protests against tuition fee increases in Quebec, a motivated minority, well aware of representative democracy’s sensitivity to protest, can rapidly mobilize large numbers around particular public-policy objectives. But use of social media to mobilize supporters means that the information needed to place the objectives and tactics within the framework of the workings of representative democracy is largely absent.
Consequently, we are forced to ask whether civic education and reformed electoral and related institutions will suffice to bring the Internet generation into effective participation in representative democracy. This may seem like a harsh verdict, but I have yet to see convincing evidence of the counterclaim that by constituting a classroom in democracy, the actions in the streets bring more young citizens into politics than would otherwise have been the case.
It goes without saying that societies lacking legitimate institutions of representative democracy are a different story. Social media politics can kindle large mobilizations against, and even bring down, authoritarian regimes. This is what the Arab Spring showed us.13 (The association of events in Quebec with the Arab spring through the popular play on words printemps érable, or “maple spring,” is thus illegitimate.) Even in this case, however, antidemocratic groups can be mobilized electronically, as manifested in the outbreak in September of sometimes violent protests in the Islamic world ostensibly over a YouTube excerpt of a film ridiculing the prophet Muhammad. Nor is there anything inherently political about street actions in representative democracies, as evidenced by the British lootings or the hockey riots in Vancouver.
In tiny Iceland, a quarter of the population was summoned to the streets of Reykjavik and by sheer numbers and perseverance forced the country’s leaders to stand up to British and Dutch banks. More typical, however, is Greece, where the anti-austerity protests have provided a milieu in which destructive forces have been able to operate.14
Perhaps the most interesting recent case is the 15M movement in Spain. On closer inspection, this movement (see Irene Martín’s article in this section) does not fit well into the social media politics mould. Despite its main original raison d’être being high youth unemployment, the Internet generation is only slightly overrepresented in 15M, and it is not especially dependent organizationally on social media. Its actions are structured around weekly neighbourhood assemblies (and regular regional and national meetings) at a fixed time and place, with actions limited to those based on consensus. The demands that emerged out of this process were aimed at improving rather than contesting representative democracy. Economic demands were constrained by the reality of Spain’s situation, and actions were limited to carefully selected cases, such as blocking a home repossession by a bank. Attempts to radicalize the movement have proved counterproductive.
The Spanish case appears to be, on balance, one that takes place within the framework of representative democracy. What of the Quebec students? Judy Rebick (in this section), among others, argues that the movement respected democracy since actions were adopted by votes at general assemblies in the colleges and universities “where every student participated in making all the important decisions.” And indeed, when the actions culminated in a relatively high-turnout election that brought to power a (minority) government supporting the students, the student leaders called it a victory for democracy. In my view, this misinterprets the overall significance of what took place. However, before asking the question of whether the long-term effect of the actions will be to reinforce or weaken democracy in Quebec, a wider discussion of how and why social media politics and representative democracy may be incompatible is required.
Representative democracy and social media politics
At its simplest, social media politics is the form of political participation of a generation whose link to the political world is primarily via the Internet, making it distinct from previous generations for whom the link was through print, radio and television. For those generations, political information was predominantly linear. It could be placed in a context of time and place, providing the individual with some basis for choosing among alternative policies. Thus, it fostered the understanding that politics consisted of linear process characterized by complex tradeoffs, particularly when it came to financing public programs.
Linearity was first challenged by the arrival of the multichannel television universe via cable and satellite transmission combined with the remote control device. Henceforth viewers, with minimal effort, could shift impulsively to a more stimulating image or avoid political information entirely. Research has shown that the result was a deeper political knowledge gap between those who followed politics and everyone else.15 The Internet accelerates and intensifies this process. Externally imposed order gives way entirely; now content is internally selected, ordered, even created. Power shifts from institutions to networks and from bordered territories to cyberspace, transcending geographical and hierarchical restrictions. Linearity is a thing of the past.
This is not to deny that that the institutions of representative democracy also make use of Internet-based forms of communication, through party websites, politicians’ blogs, Facebook and Twitter accounts. But the literature shows that, overall, these remain marginal, and have not significantly affected representative politics. Representative politics still operates in a defined political space that allows for distinguishing among alternative policies that are time- and place-bound, making an informed choice, and applying that choice in an election.
For the typical participant, this entails identifying with a given political party as a kind of default position from which deviations in vote choice take place in response to altered circumstances. Hence, representative democracy presupposes that, under normal circumstances, citizens will vote and a motivated minority will make an effort to win the support of others. These others will seek to have their policy choices implemented by supporting a party or candidate or, indirectly, by attempting to mould public opinion via the media, petitions and various public actions.
The most significant distinct feature of social media politics lies in the way mobilization takes place. In representative democracy, information relevant to making choices and acting on them are transmitted and received through defined channels: political parties and other organizations seeking to attain their objectives via representative institutions, and reported on by the mass media.
Social media politics is based on an apparent shared interest on the basis of which the individual is potentially mobilized to action via specific information about a particular issue at a given moment, from signing an electronic petition to joining a demonstration blocking traffic. Collective action is immediate; there are no space- or time-based constraints as to the target and content. The primary, if not only, source of information is through social media from “friends.” These are not friends who know you as a real person, and might even disagree with you; rather they are strangers – anyone, anywhere, who presumably shares your interests.
Such information is thus inevitably incomplete and can simply be wrong. For example, an urban legend was spread among Quebec’s student protesters in spring 2012: someone, they were certain, had died in a protest and the government, police and media had conspired to hide it. Only when investigated by old-style journalists who found the person to be very much alive did the rumour die out.
Given that shared interest is what connects the individual to social media, they do not serve to provide information that could undermine that shared interest and therefore cannot serve as a forum for discussing and seeking to win others over to that position. Hence they serve poorly as a means of moulding public opinion and, thus, of affecting the decisions of representative institutions. Moreover, because politics based on social media communication is diffuse and lacks boundaries, mobilization will be around vaguely defined and changing goals, with no clear or consistent perspective on how to reach changing objectives.
In sum, political activities based on social media do not – cannot – set out the political-economic context in which the demands fit. To the growing extent that members of the Internet generation depend on social media, they lessen their capacity to operate effectively in representative democracy. Such e-mobilization, however large, will likely be unsuccessful, interpreted not as the failure to win over other citizens sufficiently but as proof of the immobility of the system. The result will be a return to passivity or – at the urging of the radical minority – intensified antisocial behaviour. This behaviour further alienates public opinion, ensuring that the demands do not find their way into public policy decisions, which is taken as proof that the real power lies in the hands of corporate interests that manipulate corrupt politicians and lying media. It is a classic vicious circle.
The Quebec student actions
Can representative democracy break this vicious circle by taking the issues raised in the street to the people in the form of an election? As I was writing, an election was taking place in Quebec, with the parties divided on the students’ demands. By this time, most students were returning to makeup classes while still denouncing the government. There were relatively limited signs of mobilization along representative democracy lines: building support for sympathetic parties and candidates.16 Indeed, for those representing the student associations that voted to go back to class in August, the word used was “truce.” No one I could find would say that they should accept the verdict of the people if a government opposed to their demands was democratically elected. This attitude toward the basic mechanisms of representative democracy is reminiscent of the earlier lack of concern that the various frequent disruptive actions of late spring would crystallize public opposition.
Without reliving the student protest and strike, I would suggest that the process of negotiations (sic) reflected the same nonlinear logic. At the beginning, it appeared a straightforward demand by the students to defend accessibility in response to the government’s efforts in raise Quebec’s very low tuition since its universities were relatively underfinanced and provincial debt relatively high. But an offer to make the system more accessible to students from low-income families through bursaries and loans was rejected.
The article by Pierre-Gerlier Forest in this section traces the evolution of the students’ refusal to compromise over the tuition freeze from a bargaining position to a sine qua non. Not only were pickets to keep the schools closed reinforced, even in defiance of court injunctions, but as the weather became mild and the days long, the action in the streets of Montreal intensified. No compromise could be envisaged from such a perspective, and for the dominant group within CLASSE in particular, it provided an expression of something more than a tuition freeze: a step toward a radically transformed society.17 Hence CLASSE refused to condemn the masked anarchists who used the street protests as cover to destroy property.
In classic vicious circle logic, the 130 consecutive nights of street actions were met by Bill 78, an effort by the government to restrain increasingly uncontrolled actions in the streets of Montreal and at college entrances. Bill 78 then itself became a prime focus of social media–mobilized protest, notably the banging of pots and pans (“casseroles”), drawing support for the students from organizations outside Quebec. On May 30 it was claimed that casserole marches took place in more than 70 communities across Canada and internationally. A second, larger, action on June 6 added opposition to the Harper government’s omnibus budget bill to solidarity with Quebec students and opposition to Bill 78. Moreover, since each march was independent and locally controlled, some added other issues of local importance. After telling of the actions, the press release by “leadnow” went on to state,
These pots and pans protests are an expression of frustration with a broken system, one where our governments spend billions on tax breaks for profitable corporations and high income earners, and then plead poverty as they slash our social programs … The issues in Quebec are the same ones faced around the world. Right now Quebec is leading the way, and the rapid, organic spread of these pots and pans protests … and all of their joy, love and community … is a sign the rest of the world is eager to follow their example.
From the point of view of a government (and, I would surmise, some of the students’ trade-union allies) operating within the linear political culture of representative democracy, the failure to compromise showed bad faith on the part of the student leaders. But this is to miss the submerged mass of the iceberg. These changing and at times contradictory, but immediate and intense, demands are the natural expression of social media politics. What was constant and consistent was the mobilization, and the only real tangible objective became to maintain and expand it as it gave visibility and “joy, love and community” to the movement.18
Overall, the dynamics of the Quebec spring proved to be very different from 15M, where activities and demands are decided by consensus. In Quebec, after a few weeks, the street actions and demands took on a logic of their own, creating a bandwagon on which the general assemblies – which operated on simple majority, could be called (or not called) by the leadership when they wished and, as emotions mounted, came to effectively exclude anyone opposed – found themselves riding. The real initiative lay in the nightly street actions in Montreal which no one could call off, with their route communicated only at the last minute via social media.
The 2012 Quebec election
It was assumed that dealing with the student demands would be the major issue of the election campaign. This did not happen. For the governing Liberals, the relatively peaceful – if ostensibly temporary – return to the classroom of the boycotting students at the Cegeps (colleges) in August meant that stressing the government’s having maintained law and order in the conflict would just bring back bittersweet memories. For her part, PQ leader Pauline Marois was happy not to have to defend her wearing of the (since removed) pro-student red square before the electorate. In the last week of the campaign, the university makeup sessions began. While there were disruptions at Montreal’s two large French-language universities, they did not affect the campaign.
The outcome was not unexpected. If the parties unsympathetic to the student demands, the Liberals and Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ), translated their 58 per cent of the vote into forming a government, the student organizations were set to try to close down the system again. Instead the PQ, whose support of slightly under one third of voters never budged, squeaked through to form a minority government. Turnout was 74.6 per cent, better than the 70 and 71 per cent of 2003 and 2007 and much better than the 57 per cent of 2008 – though still lower than the 1994 turnout of 82 per cent and the 1998 turnout of 78 per cent. It was boosted by the tight three-party battle, very different from the predictability of the 2008 election, which followed the previous one by 18 months and was overshadowed by the Canadian and American elections. We do not know what the turnout was among young people, but if the 2008 pattern of a 20-percentage-point difference from overall turnout held, then young Quebecers’ 55 per cent was more than respectable in comparison with young people elsewhere in North America.
Yet there is no indication that, on balance, the youth vote reinforced the position of the PQ and the left-wing Québec Solidaire (whose two leaders participated in a pro-student march on August 22). If anything, the backlash against the students helps explain the poor PQ showing. Nevertheless, since Marois promised she would cancel the tuition hike by decree (unlike other controversial parts of her program, the opposition seemed disinclined to try to block this move), relative calm returned to Quebec’s educational institutions.
Will this victory bolster support for electoral democracy? CLASSE argues that victory came only because of militancy in the streets. In the wake of the election, it cautioned against trusting electoral outcomes, and promised to fight for free tuition. The other student leaders promised vigilance to ensure that the full freeze would be maintained and action against expected PQ efforts to tie tuition hikes to the cost of living. The lesson learned is not one of triumph by playing by the rules of electoral democracy. In this case a constellation of fortuitous circumstances came together – in particular an electoral system that gave power to the pro-student 40 per cent rather than the anti-student 60 per cent. But what paid off, ultimately, was a strategy based on disruptive mobilization. As has become even more evident in the days after the election, when economic circumstances force this government (or one that will take over within a year or two) to hike tuition, this year’s events will be evoked to call Quebec students to the streets once again.
Direct democracy in the Internet age
One other dimension of the Quebec events is relevant to this discussion. The Parti Québécois program promises binding referendums on issues at the demand of 15 per cent of voters. This became an important factor in the campaign when, in the TV debate, CAQ leader François Legault put Pauline Marois on the defensive, raising the threat of an unwanted, divisive referendum on sovereignty. Marois managed to get that proposal mooted, but the wider idea of bringing certain issues to the people deserves a real hearing. If there is substance to the incompatibility between representative and social media politics, we need to consider such innovations – even if they call into question certain key principles of representative democracy. One possibility is raised in the accompanying article by Vaughan Lyon: constituency parliaments, which could be seen as corresponding to the goal expressed by CLASSE of “the population taking permanent control of politics, at the base, as the primary site of political legitimacy.”
Of more immediate interest, given the PQ’s program, is CLASSE’s evocation of “a direct democracy called into action at every moment … expressed in assemblies: at school, at work and in neighbourhoods.” One practical response to this demand lies in electronic referendums. What if the Quebec students had had the possibility of bypassing the elected legislature and taking their demands directly to such a referendum? It would surely be difficult for even the most extreme of student leaders to justify taking to the streets and refusing to engage in such a process to achieve their objectives – a process of seeking to win over, rather than antagonizing, public opinion.19
While the Internet raises possibilities for such referendums that did not exist before, there still remain huge obstacles to setting them up – as experience in countries that have experimented with e-voting has taught – in such a way as to safeguard the process from manipulation or fraud. Personally I would prefer to avoid facing this choice. The Internet makes direct democracy technically feasible, but it is not yet clear that it could overcome the problem of lack of accountability. In traditional direct democracy, in any community larger than a small town, citizen-voters in a referendum – unlike members of a legislative assembly – know that they cannot be held accountable for their choice. This becomes especially acute in tax policy, as experienced notably in California with the infamous Proposition 13 but also, as John Richards recounts in this section, in British Columbia with the summer 2011 referendum on the harmonized sales tax.
Fortunately, there is no shortage of groups thinking about incentives and safeguards that would make it difficult to participate in such referendums without being informed, or keep them from being taken over by an unrepresentative minority, or even incorporate an element of accountability. One example is provided by a group for which democracy and the Internet are inseparable: the German Pirate Party. A recent report reveals that a few of the local Pirate Party chapters, notably the one in Berlin where they have entered the local parliament, are experimenting with an open-source platform called “Liquid Feedback.” Any of the 6,000 members who use it can propose a policy. If the proposal picks up a 10 per cent quorum within a set period, it becomes the focus. Alternative proposals are offered, and after the rival versions battle it out, members vote. Liquid Feedback can now be accessed only by registered party members. It allows the use of pseudonyms, so that there is no record of exactly which user account corresponds to which person, but there is discussion of requiring participants to operate under their own names. The idea is to develop a prototype for a future version of democracy.
Another example, cited by Judy Rebick in her article, is an app developed by John Richardson called PublicForums, which takes the principles of consensus and makes them scalable through online voting.
As far as giving content to the electronic discussion, the various Voter Advice Applications (VAAs), the Canadian version of which is Vote Compass, have developed impressive instruments for consulting the population on election-related issues. And there are groups in various places working on the ground rules for such a process. The accompanying article by Brad Kempo sets out the ideas of one such Canadian group, which calls itself the Canadian Citizens Party and which, at least, provides some food for thought.
I would like to think that there is still an alternative to weakening party-based representative democracy by adopting proposals such as those suggested by Kempo and Lyon – that we can still make representative democracy appeal to the Internet generation through electoral system reform, innovative approaches to civic education and voting at 16. But I am even more convinced that something must be done to provide a meaningful alternative to those who, we can be sure, will again seek to use social media to reduce democracy to street actions.
1 Even in Sweden, where turnout has been relatively steady, membership in the youth wing of the powerful Swedish Social Democratic Party declined from 40,000 in the 1970s to 2,000 in recent years.
2 Henry Milner, Civic Literacy: How Informed Citizens Make Democracy Work (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 2002).
3 For example a Swedish study that has been following young people for several years finds that positive attitudes toward political participation is affected almost entirely by just two factors: the young person’s parents’ level of education, and average level of parents’ education in the class. See Joakim Ekman and Pär Zetterberg, ”Democratic Socialization: Assessing the Impact of Different Educational Settings on Swedish 14-Year Olds’ Political Citizenship,” Politics, Culture & Socialization, Vol. 2, No. 2 (2011).
4 Eva Zeglovits, “Votes at 16: Turnout of the Youngest Voters – Evidence from Austria,” Presented at ECPR Conference, Reykjavik, September 2011; Johannes Bergh, Do Voting Rights Affect the Political Maturity of 16- and 17-Year-Olds? Findings from the 2011 Norwegian Voting-Age Trial (Oslo: Institute for Social Research, 2012).
5 Henry Milner, The Internet Generation: Engaged Citizens or Political Dropouts? (Lebanon, NH: University Press of New England, 2010).
7 Drew Westen, “How to Get Our Citizens Actually United,” New York Times, July 14, 2012.
8 New York Times, August 21, 2012.
9 Elin Naurin, Election Promises, Party Behaviour and Voter Perceptions (Basingstoke, England: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).
10 Gema Garcia Albacete, Continuity or Generational Change? A Longitudinal Study of Young People’s Political Participation in Western Europe (Mannheim, Germany: University of Mannheim, Center for Doctoral Studies in Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2011).
11 Bergh, Do Voting Rights Affect the Political Maturity of 16- and 17-Year-Olds?
12 Peter Loewen and André Blais, Youth Electoral Engagement in Canada (Ottawa: Elections Canada, 2011).
13 In saying this, we should not ignore the limitations of this movement when it comes to moving wider public opinion, as we saw in Egyptians having to choose between a pro-military and a Muslim Brotherhood candidate for president.
14 See W. Rudig and G. Karyotis, “Who Protests? An Analysis of the Profile of Veteran and New Protesters in Greece,” presented at the GSPG Conference, University of Strathclyde, Scotland, December 2011.
15 See Markus Prior, Post-Broadcast Democracy: How Media Choice Increases Inequality in Political Involvement and Polarizes Elections (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007).
16 The most talked-about case was that of the outgoing Quebec college student association (FEC) president, Léo Bureau-Blouin, who successfully ran as a candidate for the Parti Québécois.
17 See the CLASSE website, Bloquonslahausse.com
18 In their survey (“Who Protests?”), Rudig and Karyotis identify an important group among the Greek protestors as kids who are out for the thrill of it.
19 But the question would not be simply “Are you in favour of a tuition freeze?” – it would also spell out how it would be paid for.
Photo Quebec protest June 22 courtesy Ricardo Araújo / Flickr