By Quincy Hanzen, US student, AUBG Blagoevgrad
The results of the European Parliament elections could lead to an increased representation of right-wing, populist leaders. Populist parties such Italy’s The League, backed by Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, Austria’s Freedom Party, led by Heinz-Christian Strache have much in common. Populist parties are undoubtedly gaining more and more support and have been largely characterized as being anti-immigration, nationalist, conservative, and eurosceptic.
It is worth mentioning that the ideologies of young people appear to contradict that of populist parties. For example, in the United States, 80% of people under 30 who voted in the 2016 election voted for liberal candidates such as Bernie Sanders (The Atlantic)
From the results of the 2014 European Parliament elections, the younger generation (ages 18-24) held more positive attitudes towards the EU while it was the older generations who voted more skeptically. It is historically factual that younger people tend to lean more liberal (European Parliament)
The upcoming 2019 EP elections could determine the future of the EU itself. The massive election of candidates associated with populist leaders could eventually kill the EU as a whole. The Five Star Movement, the extremist Italian party, largely supports the dissolution of the EU all together. If the EU were to be blocked by eurosceptics, it would mean no supranational regulations on issues such as the protection of migrants, the combat against climate change, and more.
As a college student from the United States studying to become an English teacher, I have a lot faith in the potential of future generations. I believe their impact can be larger than they even realize. Younger people have the capacity to steer the votes away from such populist parties; however, they must vote. Voting by everyone, no matter the age, has decreased over the years, but more and more younger people have been choosing to abstain from voting.
To increase the number of younger voters, one must not underestimate the power of political marketing through tools such as social media. The growth of social media has received an abundance of criticism; however, it could be a key player in making young people aware of the elections as well as educating them on their choices. Social media has the ability educate citizens in a simplistic away, but the EU must take advantage of this tool.
Young people are beginning to rely on social media more and more as a source of information and news. I would suggest that the EU increase their presence on the internet and social media specifically. While fake news has begun to flood the media, appealing official accounts by the EU would increase validity and decrease misconceptions.
The younger generation could completely turn around the outcome of EU Parliament elections; however, they must be made aware of the procedures, their options, and the issues. It is crucial that the EU finds the way to communicate with them, in a time when media are not what they used to be in the past.