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Millennials used to like democracy. Now, most don't trust it, a Cambridge study suggests.

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 10/20/2020 Joshua Bote, USA TODAY
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A new study from the University of Cambridge has found that millennials are more disillusioned with democracy than generations were before them.

Fifty-five percent of millennials — compared to 45% of Generation X’ers and a small minority of Baby Boomers surveyed at the same age — are unhappy with democracy. It’s not just limited to the United States: Young people in Europe, Africa and South America are experiencing similar levels of dissatisfaction with the current state of political affairs.

a dining room table: Voting booths © hermosawave/Getty Images/iStockphoto Voting booths

The data spans nearly 50 years of data from around four million respondents, per the university’s Centre for the Future of Democracy, which published a study earlier this year finding democratic satisfaction at a record low globally.

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"This democratic disconnect is not a given, but the result of democracies failing to deliver outcomes that matter for young people in recent decades, from jobs and life chances to addressing inequality and climate change,” said Dr. Roberto Foa, a Cambridge University professor in politics and lead author of the report, in a statement.

The distrust in democracy, researchers said, is linked largely to “economic exclusion” — specifically employment rates for young people and inequality. Studies have found significant gaps in wealth between Millennials and older generations, a key factor in these findings.

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Prior to the 2008 financial meltdown, the study found, millennials’ attitude toward democracy were more positive than that of their parents, only to decline sharply following the crisis.

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In countries with smaller levels of inequality, such as Iceland and Austria, generational divides were less stark.

A possible solution: Researchers suggested that populist leaders winning elections, for better or worse, boosted satisfaction among millennials — a finding that Foa said “must shock moderate parties and leaders into action beyond cosmetic rebrands.”

Follow Joshua Bote on Twitter: @joshua_bote.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Millennials used to like democracy. Now, most don't trust it, a Cambridge study suggests.

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