In this fourth report, we examine young people's views on the democratic rule of law in the fourth year of secondary education. It is an important year, because this is the last year that we can compare all types of education: after this school year, in fact, our panel students in the pre-vocational track leave secondary education. It is also an interesting year, because we can finally see whether some of the trends we observed in the third year persist, or turned out to be a mere consequence of the 2021 parliamentary elections and the COVID-19 pandemic.
We draw two overarching conclusions. First, we see that students in year 4 are attached to democracy. They consider it as important to live in a democracy as they did in year 3. Representative democracy is still the most popular form of government. Adolescents also seem to think more positively about working in politics themselves, although political efficacy remains constant. In addition, young people talk more about politics and society with parents, teachers and friends than in previous years. Only the previously increased intention to vote later fell back to its level in year 2. At the same time, trust in officeholders remains lower than in years 1 and 2. Trust in politicians declines even further. Students' trust that politicians listen to people like them and their parents increased somewhat, but still much lower than in the first two years. Finally, we see that students in year 4 have begun to place somewhat more emphasis on the individual than on the community: more privacy over safety, more freedom of speech over not hurting others, or more getting your own way over obeying the law. This trend must be understood against the backdrop that young people mostly do not take outspoken positions.
The second overarching conclusion concerns persistent differences between groups. The major differences between education types VWO, HAVO and VMBO), which have been present since the beginning of high school, remain the most significant group difference. VWO students are the most attached to democracy, have the most political confidence and efficacy, report the highest propensity to vote, and have the most political ambition. Students in VMBO score much lower on all these characteristics by comparison. These differences already exist at the start of high school, and cannot be attributed to the school. They may be maintained in part by students' friend network: most of their best friends are from the same class. Also, young people express largely the same views on politics and society as their friends.
The full report is available here.