‘Stick to the status quo’? A conjoint experiment with German adolescents on democratic designs

28. Mai 2024 / Sowi II

Neue Veröffentlichung von Vanessa Schwaiger & André Bächtiger

While representing the next generation of democratic citizens, research on process preferences of adolescents is in its infancy. To analyse what institutional designs adolescents favour, we conducted a conjoint experiment with a unique, representative sample of 1,970 German pupils between the age of 14–17. We find that adolescents in general are ‘status quo’– democrats, preferring a parliament (representing the central institution of the existing representative system) to alternative institutions, namely citizen forums and an assertive leader. However, support for the status quo comes with several qualifications, namely expert input, slow and considerate political processes and a final referendum. Furthermore, we find differences between subgroups, whereby dissatisfied adolescents are more open to citizen forums and an assertive leader than satisfied adolescents. By contrast, more sophisticated adolescents have stronger preferences for the parliament as the main institution. Overall, our results suggest that a major overhaul of the democratic infrastructure does not seem to be a priority for the next generation of citizens, although there is some desire for innovation, namely the ‘blending’ of representative institutions with more citizen participation.

open access

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