UK youth don't understand the EU - survey

Published: 24 April 2014 at 11:04

Anglia Ruskin academic leads project to gauge young people’s views on Europe

A new survey published today [Friday, 25 April] shows that young people in the UK are finding it difficult to connect with the European Union, although the majority (72%) see themselves as European citizens.

The project, which aims to capture a snapshot on what UK youth think and feel about the EU and how it impacts on their daily lives, has been led by Anglia Ruskin University and the Euclid Network. 

The survey discovered that 81% of young people feel disengaged because they don’t know enough about the EU, how it works and above all how it affects their everyday lives.

Only 7% admit that they know ‘a lot’ about the EU and just 12% feel that the EU impacts on their lives ‘very much’.  A third of the respondents (34%) say they know the difference between the European Parliament, European Commission, European Council and the European Union.

The majority of respondents (82%) think that politics is not covered enough in the British school curriculum and 88% believe that young people in the UK should be taught about European politics. 

The survey also revealed that the majority of young people access and hear about the EU through the media, but only 42% are aware that the next European Parliament Election is taking place this year.

The key themes of what young people believe the EU should address focused on securing peace in the Ukraine and Syria, youth unemployment, economic problems and human rights-based issues, including people trafficking.  They also mentioned the need to address immigration, climate change and global warming.

Dr Darren Sharpe of Anglia Ruskin University, one of the report’s authors, said:

“Young people’s concerns and attitudes are not that dissimilar to older generations on issues of border control and the free movement of people in Europe, which can create a strain on public services.  But they also strongly identify as being European and are broadly optimistic about the future of the EU.
“They see the EU as a space for job opportunities and a collective voice for good in the world to tackle issues such as sustainability and environmental problems.  They also see the value of creating an EU army, learning a second language, and improvements in health and social welfare for all European member states.
“However, currently young people are not getting information about Europe from their peer group or parents, which leaves a crucial role for education and the media to play in informing and empowering young people in how to have a say in the future of the EU.”

The survey, which captured the views of 500 young people aged 12-24 via workshops and a British Youth Council online questionnaire, was carried out between January and March 2014.  It forms part of Reconnecting UK Youth to Europe, a non-partisan project funded by the European Commission’s Permanent Representation to the UK, and led by Anglia Ruskin University and the Euclid Network.