18th Shell Youth Study: Rising political engagement among young Germans

Klaus Hurrelmann co-authors study on the political concerns of German youth.

A majority of young people in Germany are positive about the future and increasingly willing to vocalise their needs and interests to political and social leaders and to their employers. At the same time, they are increasingly satisfied with democracy, mostly tolerant and liberal, and have a positive view of the European Union. Their greatest concern is the environment.

Those are the main findings of the 18th Shell Youth Study, presented in Berlin on 15 October and co-authored by Hertie School Professor of Public Health and Education Klaus Hurrelmann.

The study, which has been carried out every five years since 1953, is based on a representative sample of 2,572 young people in Germany, aged 12 to 25. Personal interviews were conducted between early January to mid-March 2019.

Young people have been gaining interest in politics since the start of the millennium, particularly among girls, though primarily limited to young people with a higher level of education, according to the study. Environmental fears have gained greatly in importance.

Fifty per cent of young people are generally positive about the EU, with only 8% expressing negative views. More than three quarters of young people say they are satisfied with democracy. Confidence in the international community is also generally higher, and young people cite the importance of freedom of movement, cultural diversity and peace, but also of economic and social welfare.

Public debates about refugees and migration are reflected in the increased fear of both xenophobia and – to a lesser extent – of immigration. Fear of immigration is more evident among those with a lower level of education. Certain populist-leaning statements also meet with approval among young people. For example, more than two thirds agree with the statement that you can’t say anything negative about foreigners without being considered a racist.

Nevertheless, the study also shows a great majority of girls and boys are positive about different social groups and minorities. The negative values are consistently under 20 per cent.


Find out more about the study online:

Read an interview with Klaus Hurrelmann about the study in Die Zeit.

More about Klaus Hurrelmann