Blog: Young Danes are historically pro-EU - now it’s time for them to get out and vote
Young Danes are overwhelmingly positive towards the EU, shows a new DI survey. So why don’t they vote at the European Parliament elections, asks DI Director and Head of European Affairs Anders Ladefoged.
This weekend over 400 million EU citizens will have the chance to vote for the 751 members of the European Parliament who will determine the course of the EU for the next five years. This year’s election takes place during immensely turbulent times in which Brexit and political fragmentation threaten to undermine European cooperation.
And once the hectic elections are over, members of the European Parliament will have some colossal challenges ahead of them. Climate change. The threat of terrorism. Growing inequality and financial fraud. These are challenges that no European country can solve alone. More than ever, we need international cooperation to build a green, secure and economically strong Europe.
If you ask young Danes who is responsible for finding the solutions to the greatest challenges of our time, the answer is clear. The young generations, for whom Europe is – for better or worse – a given, all point to the EU as the institution that must take the lead in solving today’s most pressing issues. In DI’s most recent survey among young Danes born between 1983-1999, 89 per cent of respondents say that the EU is greatly responsible for tackling climate and environmental challenges.
When asked who is responsible for finding solutions to challenges such as terrorism and immigration, they again point to the EU.
In the same survey, young people were asked to evaluate whether the EU has had a positive or a negative influence on Denmark’s general development. More than 40 per cent respond that the EU has had a very positive or positive influence. Only 16 per cent respond negatively, while the rest are neutral. In contrast, only 26 per cent say that Danish politicians have had a positive influence on the country’s development.
EU critics will argue that it is particularly highly educated young people who are pro-European. Meanwhile, DI’s survey reveals that a wide majority of young Danes today are positive towards the EU. This is true for both the mechanic and the engineer, the student and the unemployed - across the country and across the political spectrum. Also young people on the left wing have become pro-EU.
Given that young Danes endow the EU with such great responsibility for tackling the most pressing challenges facing society, one might wonder why they are so glaringly absent from European election polls – or were absent at the previous elections, at least. According to a comprehensive report on the 2014 EP election by the University of Copenhagen, voter turnout among young Danes is significantly below the national average. In fact, voter turnout in 2014 was higher among 80-89-year-olds than among 22-29-year-olds.
Will it be different this time around? I hope so. It’s encouraging to see that young people today support the EU. The EU is not a perfect cooperation, but it has shown itself to be particularly effective when it comes to protecting EU citizens and creating growth and progress in Europe.
Lately, growing support for nationalist parties and Brexit have shown that the EU cannot be taken for granted. This is something young Britons know.
It’s essential that the members of the European Parliament are given the mandate to take action and find common solutions. This mandate doesn’t come automatically. It will only be given if young people also go vote on Sunday 26 May for the candidate they believe is best equipped to build our future Europe.