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Explorations into young people's political literacy

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posted on 2023-08-30, 16:12 authored by Karen Badlan
This research project explored the key drivers of and barriers to young people’s political knowledge, interest and engagement otherwise termed political literacy as they reached the age of enfranchisement. I add to the debate around political engagement for the largest politically unrepresented group in Britain, young people under the age of eighteen. As votes at sixteen remained an ongoing debate in the House of Commons my research provided insight and awareness about what supports young people to be politically aware and engaged citizens. I took a participatory approach in this research by engaging members of the sample population as co-advisors during the research process to collaboratively develop data and methods together. Two phases of research supported the validity and trustworthiness of the study. Phase I provided predominantly quantitative data from a survey (n=200), whilst Phase II provided qualitative data from group interviews and an online ethnographic study (n=138). My study suggested characteristics and themes about the political literacy of young people in the sample group rather than claiming statistical significance from the data. Key findings showed repeated claims of uncertainty over political knowledge. Mixed levels of political literacy were evident with a fair understanding of basic political principles contrasting with a gap in knowledge surrounding formal politics. Yet the data showed a sizeable number of participants were politically knowledgeable, politically interested, and reasonably well-informed or equipped for active citizenship, even with much lower than expected levels of receiving citizenship education in school. Therefore self-reported political uncertainty did not automatically reflect the actual political literacy of research participants. A range of factors from a lack of self-confidence, rational ignorance, socio-economic opportunities, poor quality of information in the public sphere and a lack of trust in major media and Government sources were all found to contribute to uncertainty over politics and undermine the political literacy of young people.



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