After an eventful year with parliamentary elections and the COVID-19 pandemic, it is time to take stock. How do students in secondary education currently perceive politics and democracy? In this third report of the Dutch Adolescent Panel on Democratic Values (DAPDV) project, we follow the development of students' attitudes and values in the first three years of secondary education.
Compared to previous years, the picture in the third year is more positive. Third-year students show stronger attachment to representative democracy, both in their values and behavioral intentions. This is evident, for example, in their increased importance placed on living in a democracy, higher intention to vote, and greater political knowledge, interest, and confidence in their own (political) abilities.
This does not mean that young people have blind trust in politics. Trust in (political) officeholders continues to decline, as does the belief that politicians listen to people like them and their parents. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing: a healthy democracy benefits from citizens being attached to democracy while maintaining a critical attitude towards political representatives.
Furthermore, students become more aware of their own position and self-interest in the third year of secondary education. Although they still actively choose for the community, they place slightly more emphasis on the individual compared to previous years. This is most visible in the discussion surrounding freedom of speech versus causing harm to others.
It is also noteworthy that the substantial inequalities based on educational track, which we already observed at the beginning of secondary school, persist. Similar to previous years, VWO students attach much greater importance to living in a democracy than VMBO students, are more likely to report an intention to vote, and have more political knowledge. Although the differences between educational tracks remain substantial, it is important to keep in mind that these attitudes are increasing across all tracks.
The full report is available here.
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