Roger Soler-i-Martí. Youth and social and political engagement

Notes from the conference on Youth and social and political engagement by Roger Soler-i-Martí. The conference presented the results of the Survey on participation and politics 2017 in youth, and was organized by the Government of Catalonia and held in Barcelona, Spain, on 19 June 2019.

Roger Soler-i-Martí. Youth and social and political engagement

The Survey on participation and politics 2017 in youth is about how young people get involved and engage in society. The survey has a double edge: democracy in society (involvement, engagement) and the future of society (youth).

  • How are youth different?

  • What differences and similarities are there between young people?
  • What is the impact of the social and political context?
  • Where are we headed to? What are the main trends?

Survey: people from 16 years old and up. Face-to-face interview to 1,900 individuals (1,000 16-29 y.o., 900 +29). November 2017.

Why youth are different?

Classical explanations:

  • Life-cycle: depending on your age, you have different interests. On the other hand, you learn how to get involved and engage as you get older.
  • Generation: having been born at a given time (and/or place) makes you different. E.g. in Western societies kids spend more time at school than their predecessors, and this is a differential fact.
  • Other explanations:

    • The transitions between infancy and youth, and youth and adulthood have changed in recent years, sometimes even with trends that seem to go backwards (e.g. emancipated youth that go back to live with their parents). This affects the life-cycle and the generational logics.
    • Changes in subjectivities: the factors that shaped political attitudes are increasingly more individualistic and less institutional or cohort-related.
    • Transformations in democracy: the democratic landscape (definitions, beliefs, practices) has changed dramatically in the last years/decades.

    Types of youth in participation:

    • Multiactivists (17.5%): expressive participation, participation as part of one’s own identity.
    • Connected (30.9%): they participate and engage, but are neither affiliated nor they feel engaging is an important part of their identities.
    • Associated (12.7%): what is important to this group is being affiliated to an organization and they rarely participate outside of it.
    • Passive (39%): very much related to inequalities and social-exclusion factors.

    Family and income, the urban/rural factor, or gender are determinants of the different kinds of engagement. In the case of Catalonia, the independentist factor is also of importance.

    A simple scheme of participation:

    • Can I participate? Social status, resources.
    • Do I want to participate? Values, vision of the world, that shape attitudes, opinions.
    • Do I have the means? Mobilization agents.

    The Catalan independence movement

    Pro independence people are more mobilized than non-independentists.

    Notwithstanding, there does not seem to be a lot of differences in age when it comes to mobilization. On the other hand, many of them participated less during the hot days of September to November 2017, when the independentist movement reached its maximum. One reason may be that the topic is not very important for youth (compared to others); another reason is that these movements were led by institutions (political parties, big civil society organizations), which are not the main field of action of youth.

    Main trends

    • Lack of confidence with political parties and institutions in general.
    • Implication and engagement without intermediaries.
    • Different dimensions of political engagement.
    • Preferences for direct democracy.
    • Identity as a cognitive shortcut for political engagement less used in youth.
    • Normalization of extra-institutional participation.
    • Normalization of online participation.
    • Partisanism without delegation.


    Ismael Peña-López: is there a difference in participation between girls and boys and related to the independentist movement? Could it be that the promise of a new republic is not feminist enough? Silvia Claveria (co-author of the research): young women usually participate much less, but the reasons are not clear. On the one hand, women are usually more adverse to risk, and a process of independence is obviously a risky one; on the other hand it is true that women my have not been represented enough by the independentist movement, very institutionalized and male led.


    If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

    Peña-López, I. (2019) “Roger Soler-i-Martí. Youth and social and political engagement” In ICTlogy, #189, June 2019. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
    Retrieved month dd, yyyy from

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