» Posts tagged: ‘politics

ageIs there any relationship between the age of national political leaders, the median age of the population and the type of political system?

The Economist, in an article dated 15/2/2011 (including the above figure), suggests there is:

One much-discussed cause of the Jasmine Revolution in the Arab world is the age difference between youthful populations and grizzled leaders. Egypt’s median age is 24. President Hosni Mubarak was the fifth-oldest leader in the world before he was toppled aged 82. The countries in the chart below suggest that such a wide gap is more common in autocracies like Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Algeria, Cuba and North Korea (where Kim Jong Il celebrates his 70th birthday on February 16th). Democracies, by contrast, seem to prefer more youthful leaders these days, though India and Italy are exceptions to this trend.

In light of the recent developments in Egypt it is of interest to return to this suggestion. Mohammed Morsi is about 20 years younger than Hosni Mubarak, yet this didn’t seem to have helped neither him nor Egypt. Also, with Kim Jong Un North Korea got itself a political leader who was, in fact, below the median age of the population. Also here, this has apparently not transformed North Korean politics in any significant way.

Perhaps then, the relationship between age, leadership and political system is a bit more complex than the Economist suggests it to be, or perhaps not a relevant relation at all?

posted by Roy Huijsmans


posted by Roy Huijsmans

In their recent article in Journal of Sociology entitled Beyond the ‘Transitions’ Metaphor, Johanna Wyn, Sarah Lantz and Anita Harris report on findings from research on attitudes towards and practices of civic and political engagement of young people (15-18 years) in Victoria, Australia.

In the present day, when much is made of the importance of the internet in relation to youth the following finding is worth flagging: Only 40% of the total 970 young people surveyed claimed that ‘online forums’ were places where they felt they could ‘have a say’. In comparison, 95% felt this was the case with friends, 89% referred to their family, 83% to their classroom, 76% to school and 44% to work. In addition, only 36% of the surveyed young people wished for a lot ‘more of a say’ in online forums. Only, the wish to have a lot more of a say in their electorate in which they lived ranked lower (35%).

Perhaps less surprising but worth flagging are the findings with whom the surveyed youth discuss social and political issues. ‘Parents’ ranked top of the list (58%) followed by friends (56%), in class (56%), other family members (44%), with no one else (29%), someone in the community (20%), and only then ‘online’ (20%).

Whilst the internet is no doubt an important space for young people, and may offer new possibilities for political participation, these findings remind us that, at least in the Australian context, the internet does not derive its popularity from its political potential, and neither is it necessarily a more important, or the only, space for political engagement of youth.


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