Extreme pessimists? Expected socioeconomic downward mobility and the political attitudes of young adults

This paper by Elena Cristina Mitrea, Monika Mühlböck and Julia Warmuth show that young adults develop ideological positions based on prospective socioeconomic decline. Consequently, political behaviour can be attributed to ‘subjective perceptions’ and fear of future socioeconomic decline, not just current material conditions.

The anxiety of ‘expected intergenerational downward mobility’ results in tendencies towards the extreme right and left among young adults.

Mitrea et al’s research found that the UK ranked fourth in Europe in terms of expectations of downward mobility among young adults. This rank is attributed to house and rent prices twinned with stagnating salaries. The most profound shift to the extreme is from the centre to the left, lending credence to speculation of a ‘generation left’ (e.g Milburn, 2019).

Ultimately, the authors conclude, left parties only stand to realise this potential electoral constituency should they mobilise young voters around these issues, rather than the association being in any way intrinsic or inevitable.

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Harry Pitts


Politics and perceptions of automation risk

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