“Racked” with anxieties about the post-Brexit world, the next generation of voters do not believe there is a single politician trustworthy enough to run the country, a landmark study of 16 to 18-year-olds has revealed.
According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, a long-running integrity and credibility survey, the majority of these teens feel helpless about their prospects - distrusting of the government and the British people to protect their future.
The group, labelled “Generation Angst”, narrowly missed out on voting in the EU Referendum. They believe they have been left a “poisoned legacy”, with more than a third (38%) claiming their standard of living will be worse than older generations.
The main findings of the survey show:
- Only 14% now feel confident about their future post-Brexit
- ‘None of the above’ ranked higher than all UK political leaders
- London Mayor Sadiq Khan most trusted to ‘do what is right’
- 6 in 10 are worried about the pace of change of social media
- Young people are more likely to consider experts believable
Edelman UK chief executive Ed Williams said the results paint a “troubling picture” of today’s youth. “There is a swathe of anxious young people who are looking for reassurance about the future,” he said.
“They have left childhood behind, but don’t like that they see up ahead of them. Rather than the optimism of youth, they show a greater angst about the future than their parents do.”
Not a single politician qualified to run Britain
Generation Angst do not trust a single external institution to deliver the future they aspire to, with 16 to 18-year-olds unable to put confidence in the UK government, the British people, the monarchy, or the European Union to protect their prospects, the study of 1,000 teens claims.
For this group, only their friends, family and own generation are considered trustworthy.
Generation Angst is equally dismissive about individual politicians and their parties.
While this group put significantly more trust in the Labour Party and the Green Party - 40% and 39% compared to the Tories’ 26% - as with British adults, young people are distrusting of all political parties.
Perhaps the most troubling result, however, was the fact that the next generation of UK voters does not believe there is a single politician qualified to run the country.
When the teens were asked who they would vote for in a general election, the overwhelming response was “None of them” at 22%.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was the highest ranking politician, with 18% of the theoretical votes, while current Prime Minister Theresa May received just 11% - 1% less than her predecessor David Cameron.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan was revealed to be the politician teens trust most to “do what is right”, with a rating of just 34%.
Brexit is a major worry for Remain-backing teens
Brexit represents one of the biggest sources of worry for Generation Angst, the Edelman study revealed.
With 69% of 16 to 18-year-olds claiming they would have voted Remain in the EU Referendum, only 14% now feel confident about their future post-Brexit.
Many of the group narrowly missed out on the chance to vote. In 2015, the House of Lords voted to lower the voting age to 16 for the EU Referendum on the grounds that it would help get more teenagers involved in politics.
However, MPs in the Commons blocked the move, with some pro-Leave politicians arguing that it would give the Remain camp an unfair advantage.
More than half (52%) of teens now say that Brexit should not be acted on, with 39% demanding a second referendum.
In much higher numbers than the general population, Generation Angst fears the decision to leave the EU will have a negative impact on the UK’s economy, society and the prospects of future generations.
Almost two-thirds of teens (63%) also believe that political stability in Europe will be damaged by Brexit - 13% more than the British public overall.
Generation Angst still values experts
Despite experts being slammed during the referendum campaign, young people still value the the views of specialists - much more so than the general public.
The survey found that 81% of 16 to 18-year-olds consider experts more believable than “people like me”. This was the case for only 51% of the British public as a whole.
Although they are considered to be the social media generation, teenagers still consider traditional media sources to be more trust-worthy than online sources.
Three-quarters said they would believe the word of newspapers and TV news over social media, while this was the case for only 73% of the general population.
First victims of the ‘social media explosion’
One of the more surprising revelations from the survey is the fact that the majority of young people are worried about how quickly social media is changing - far more anxious than their parents and grandparents.
Despite three-quarters of 16 to 18-year-olds using social media every single day, with YouTube, Facebook, SnapChat and Instagram listed as their favourites, 59% are worried about the pace of change of these sites and apps.
In a survey of the general public, only 44% listed this as a cause for concern.
Edelman claims that the results show young people are likely to become the first victims of the “social media explosion” as they fail to keep up with the pace of change.
Cécile Nathan-Tilloy, managing director of Edelman Intelligence, told The Huffington Post UK: “We think this reflects a general level of discomfort about the pace of change in technology for a group that is at the forefront of that change.
“They are often the first to be hit by innovation. Because they are digital natives, born to this world of technology, we think it’s easy and instinctive for them, but really it isn’t,” she continued.
“It still requires effort and understanding to cope with constant change and it isn’t often that young people have a chance to express that point of view.”