Studying Youth Engagement with Politics

Room: 
Room K, City Hall
Time Slot: 
Monday 26th March 09:30 - 11:00
Panel Chair: 
  • Dr Emily Rainsford (Newcastle University)
Panel Members: 
  • Dr Matthew Wall (Swansea University)
  • Mrs Ana Pontes (Nottingham Trent University)
  • Mr James Andrews (Swansea University)
  • Professor Matt Henn (Nottingham Trent University)

In this joint panel between the Elections, Public Opinion Parties and Young People’s Politics specialist groups, we consider the study of young people’s engagement with politics and how technological and methodological advances may shape both future research and efforts to engage young people with the electoral process. Matthew Wall and James Andrews both focus on the use of Voter Advice Applications (VAAs), with Matthew’s paper considering the challenges of using VAAs to communicate political party policy positions to young people in a way that facilitates their cognitively deep and methodological critical engagement with the issues. His analyses also demonstrate the potential for VAAs to boost youth engagement with party political issues, and consequently to increase their political literacy, efficacy and participation in politics. James’ paper also examines the consequences of VAA use for young people, focussing particularly on their political efficacy. He discusses the methodological challenges and analytic opportunities that arise from the use of such technology, and argues that VAAs provide both an effective tool for gathering useful data on the political efficacy and engagement of young people, and for boosting young people’s confidence in their capacity to effectively participate in politics.

Finally, Ana Isabel Pontes and colleagues consider the issue of measuring youth political engagement reliably using survey data. Highlighting the potential risks in terms of statistical bias and invalid conclusions of inaccurate measurements of youth engagement, they develop and validate a scale measurement of young people’s political engagement drawing on data from both the UK and Portugal. Their conclusions highlight the importance of clearly operationalising and conceptualising political engagement and the use of validated and empirically robust measures of political activity for future academic research.