Iuventa / Výskum mládeže / Data catalogue / 2009 / First voters – high school and university students and the European Parliament elections 2009

First voters – high school and university students and the European Parliament elections 2009

Research identification sheet ID: DAYR 025

Author of research:  Ladislav Machacek, CERYS Department of Political Science at FF UCM in Trnava
The period of data collection: II.etapa 8. 6. – 18. 6. 2009
Data collection
: The Agency of Social Analysis, Bratislava

Abstract

According to official results, the statistical office recognized of the total number of 4.345.773 of eligible voters the 826.782 valid votes, representing 19,6 %. The Slovak Republic has re-included itself with the lowest turnout reaching the last place among the 27 EU member countries. The highest electoral failure had been observed in Slovakia (80,4 %), in Lithuania (79 %) and Poland (75,5 %). Slovakia belongs to a small group of countries (BG, PL, LV, EE), which had an overall trend of reducing participation in the elections to the EP (from 49,5 % in 2004 to 45,5 % in 2009) and recorded a growth in participation compared to 2004, of 2.7% (16.9% to 19.6%). Experts in the overall evaluation of the mobilization of voters to participate in the elections indicated that the relevant elements vary according to pre-campaign in Slovakia in 2009 from 2004 – these were only projects aimed at studying youth funded by the European Parliament and the European Commission. Eg. Eurotrain (IUVENTA), "Even you are the European Parliament." (IC EP in Bratislava), "Young European" (EC representation in Bratislava). One of these projects was the project Dpt. of Political Science at FF UCM in Trnava SEP, which in the course of 5 months of intensive activities aimed at developing the growth of knowledge about the EU and the EP and to mobilize them and their parents to participate in the elections to the EP. According to the first post Eurobarometer most people remember the campaign before the elections in Malta (89 %), Sweden (86 %) and Slovakia (82 %). Improved outcome of 2,7 % 3 % can be attributed primarily to the students‘ capital - participation of youth-the first voters. According to research carried out within 10 days after the election (8. – 18. 6. 2009) by the expression of respondents participated in 33% of the population of 170,000 student-eligible voters who cast approximately 54.740 valid votes. Stating approximately 1,6 times higher turnout (participation) compared with a total population of eligible voters registered in the electoral rolls. The first voters-students aged 18 to 23 year consist of the total number of eligible voters, representing 3,91 % 6,41 % of the votes cast in the EP. That growth is deserved particularly due to students‘ youth-first voters and especially those who are studying at universities in the age 20 – 24 years, as confirmed by the latest research by Eurobarometer EP elections.

Research sample  

Sociological Research (757 students) aged 18 to 23 year prepared the Department of Political Science at FF UCM in Trnava. We have carried out the research in the form of questionnaire surveys in face to face system. The collection of data ensured ASA-Bratislava. The collection of empirical data was due to 8. 6. – 18. 6. 2009.

Research results

We paid particular attention to those data which would specify the efficiency of penetration of the project into the activities of students‘ environment in terms of mobilizing students to electoral participation.

The first indicator was the identification of information about the project.

  • 57 % of respondents did not know anything about this event – the project.
  • 43 % participated in the project or had information on it.

From that:

  1. 5 % of respondents stated that they participated in the action project, for example. knowledge of the competition over the Internet or SEP committees on its university;
  2. 11 % of respondents stated that they have not personally participated in the project, but their classmates, colleagues, participated in the project
  3. 27 % of respondents claimed that they have heard or seen something about the SEP in the media.

Up to these data we can compare to our statistical evidence for example:

Internet test was attended by 2,565 secondary school students from throughout the Slovak Republic.
The prize winning competitions ( a visit to the EP in Brussels) attended approximately 240 secondary school students and 300 audience-fans of teams in 8 cities.
Plenary opening of the SEP (24.2.009 in Trnava) was attended by 100 university students and the final plenary (1.6.2009 in Bratislava) was participated with the same number of participants.

The 14 committees within the universities in 8 cities participated 300 university students. The project had a relatively intense media presentation over the national TV: 4 news and interviews in STV and Markíza.

The Internet traffic was high not only regarding www.sepeu.sk (eg, approximately 8 thousand clicks), but the project information could be seen among the websites of many secondary schools and universities in Slovakia.

Students were given promotional bags and pens with the logo of www.sepeu.sk, flyers and posters (5.000 pcs) or calenders with logo and the SEP (30.000 pcs).

The second indicator was to examine the participation in elections, depending on participation in the project.

The rate of participation in elections is different under the participatory level of intensity in the project. Participants in the elections:

  1. most students who participated personally in some way within the project – 54 %;
  2. whose friends, colleagues, classmates participated in the project – 51 %;
  3. the participation was less in those who have just heard over the radio or saw on television, the Internet and so on. – 41 %;
  4. the below average participation in EP elections of those who have never heard about the project 24 %.

The third indicator was to find a relationship between the participation in elections to the EP and the own subjective vision of the future in 10 years, compared to parents.

Students at gymnasiums and at high schools represent the social-age group with the optimistic vision of its future in the longer term. Not only in January 2009, but even in June 2009, despite the economic crisis and growing unemployment the optimists represent more than 70% of the research file.

Electoral participation is essentially linked to the "life-optimism." In conditions of the number of voters‘ participation is important understanding of the much better (44 %), better (34 %) or the same future (39 %) compared with parents.

The actual decline in voters‘ participation occurs only between the "pessimist" (worse future). In doing so, the uncertainty (do not know – 19 %) in the future in terms of impact on electoral behavior is surprisingly more important than the certainty that the future will be much worse (25 %) or worse (28 %) compared with parents.

The future of the students in the 10 years horizont compared with their parents and the voter turnout in EP 6.6.2009

The fourth indicator was the level of knowledge about the European Parliament, depending on participation in the project.

The aim of the project was not only the higher SEP students‘ participation in the elections. Our main objective was to improve the awareness of European governance and the contribution of EP to its democratization.The knowledge of students was examined by several elementary test questions with the possibility of responses: true, false and do not know.

We claimed that

  1. Parliament adopted a decision that it will no longer be moved from Brussels to Strasbourg and back.
    38,5 % of SEP participants revealed that it was a false claim, 62,5 % with no information on the project said that he was not informed about this decision.
  2. Parliament approved a directive on the reduction of roaming charges 56,3 % participants of the SEP project indicated this EP information as truth, without information about the project only 49,3 %.
  3. Seach Member State has the same number of representatives in the EP 87,2 % of the project participants revealed that the claim is wrong, participants without awareness of the project were correct only at 62 %.
  4. Members of Parliament are elected directly by citizens in each EU member state 92,3% of participants knew that the claim is true, participants with no information about the project, only 76,3 %.
  5. Members of Parliament sit in the meeting hall of Parliament jointly by countries 46,2 % of the projects revealed that it is a false claim, but students with no information about the project, only 29,2 % Here is the most of those who responded-I do not know (44 %).

The knowledge test particularly concerning the functioning of the Parliament confirmed that the participants involved in the project answered much more correctly compared with the group that has never heard about the SEP project. The information that members of the EP are elected directly by the citizens, that the MEPs do not sit in the EP jointly by their countries but according to the political guidelines, that each member state has not the same number of MEPs and they are still moving regularly from Brussels to Strasbourg are very significant indicators about the knowledge of the EU citizens regarding the EP structure.

It does not say anything about the actual impact of the EP decision on the daily lives of the EU citizens. As far as they consider so-called reduction in roaming charges, flight fees, there are not such great differences. Better results were achieved by the other groups of students. So it seems that students (especially girls in secondary schools) are able to learn much about the EP and its operation from the available information sources, but not registered its decision (income) on some important facts related to the everyday life of young people mediated only by media.

Conclusions

Not only the students (33 %), but also the parents (34 %) and friends (27 %) of these students - frequently participated in the EP elections on 6. 6. 2006 than the other socio-age groups. Those who participated in the SEP project realized with the support of the European Parliament more often participated in the elections, they are better informed about the EP and its activities. In general who has not heard anything about our project did not know much about the decisions of Parliament in those areas and vice versa. We realize that there is more than half of students surveyed (57 %). Electoral behavior of students is influenced by their own subjective view of the personal future: the greater optimistic expectations regarding the future are the greater personal involvement in the EP elections in 2009 has taken place.

Recommendations from the research

I.The YouthWork

Information campaigns aimed at young people's participation in the elections to the EP indicated that students are motivated to participate in similar participatory projects. Specifically in eastern Slovakia. Students like to compete for a sensible prize and with the support of their teachers they literally "struggle" for the reputation of their school. They can learn the necessary facts even though they do not always understand their context.

At the same time, we have found out that the information projects of youth work are not coordinated by each other. Often the students of secondary schools are overloaded by the challenges, which are they already unable to respond, especially to the period prior to graduation or exams for high school.

In the period of the pre-campaign training in Slovakia, we have seen several large projects funded by the EU. SEP project showed that work with secondary and tertiary (university) youth in the field of education for democratic citizenship should not be shocking and purpose-built, but should be coordinated, systematic and long-term.

II. Youth Research

Research of the studying youth after completion of the electoral campaign and election on 6. 6. 2009 identify the specific impact of student participation in the SEP project in 5 months. Its findings contributed to the overall assessment of the progress and project results. Research explains how to increase the number of participants in the elections in Slovakia by 2.7 %, even though Slovakia maintained its exclusive position overall highest non-participation in the elections to the EP.

As confirmed by the results of the Eurobarometer, after the elections to the EP in the European average, attended more of the whole citizens over 55 years (50 %) than in age from 18 to 29 years (29 %). Indeed, the students (34 % participation), who moved to the unemployed and workers. It is not surprising that the higher the level of education, the higher the participation in the elections.
To verify that our hypothesis (the clarification) of the results to the elections to the EP in Slovakia are relevant we can use the Eurobarometer finding that the average share of the electorate, who also studied after reaching the age of 20 years was the highest (52 %).

It is necessary that every part of any massive project focused in youth should be empirical research identifying the situation and knowing the views and attitudes of young people at the beginning and the end of an information campaign as part of its overall assessment.

The availability of the data file: inaccessible to the public

The availability of research tools: inaccessible to the public

Citation (Quotation): Student Parliament and the European Parliament elections 2009 in Slovakia. Dept. Of Political Science at FF UCM in Trnava 2009

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