Action, reaction, inaction? Young adults' citizenship in Britain

S. Grundy, L. Jamieson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper examines young adults' orientations to citizenship in Britain, drawing on surveys of random samples of 18-24 year olds. A range of experiences, behaviour and attitudes are explored including: citizenship education, voting, attitude to voting, party affiliation, participation in clubs and societies and engagement with social and political issues. These questions have been asked at a time when citizenship is on many agendas and there is much concern about the apparent apathy of young people regarding local, national and supranational issues. In Britain, some commentators hoped that the advent of a Scottish parliament would help re-engage young people in Scotland with politics and citizenship. This paper compares young people living in Edinburgh, Scotland with young people living in Manchester, an equivalent sized city in England. Like previous research, our data show that while young people are interested in social and political issues they do not focus their concerns on engagement with formal political systems. Many hold negative views about politics, such as feeling that they have little control over what the government does. However, young people's disaffection with voting is somewhat lower in Edinburgh than Manchester despite no greater faith in political parties. This may be an effect of the Scottish parliament. At the same time, young people in Edinburgh are only slightly more likely to be involved in associations and no more likely to be interested in and engaged with a range of wider social and political issues. If there is an effect of devolution on active citizenship, it is, at least for this cohort of young citizens, a very modest one.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237-252
Number of pages16
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2004


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