Overall, the future outlooks and civic actions of young adults in Germany closely align with those of their peers in Greece, Italy, Poland and the United Kingdom, and they are more similar than they are different. In other words, the findings presented in the above also apply to 18- to 39-year-olds in Germany. Nevertheless there are a few areas in which young adults in Germany differ from those in the other countries surveyed. Explore them here.
Across all five countries sampled, trust and confidence in government and civil society alike are low. In Germany, however, the situation is comparatively less dire: Fifty-three percent express confidence in their government as a driver of change, and there is slightly less agreement with provocative statements such as “politicians are puppets of powerful elites” (49% vs. 54% on average) and “the media pursue their own interest instead of reporting the facts” (63% vs. 70% on average).
In Germany, too, young adults express concern about how said institutions might evolve. As in the other countries surveyed, a plurality believe the next decade will see less competent governance (39% vs. 29% more competent) and less citizen participation in political decision-making (34% vs. 30% more participation). They are also ambivalent about their own role in preventing this. While most participate in elections and political discourse, relatively few engage in more organized or labor-intensive ways (for details see below).
Generally, young adults in Germany have similar hopes as their peers in the other four countries: They want a secure, affordable, eco-friendly and fair future society – and, in particular, one with well-functioning health and social welfare systems (79%). By comparison, German respondents also place higher priority on strong democratic institutions – particularly independent media (57% vs. 48% on average across all five countries). National defense is seen as less important, with only 22% prioritizing a strong military, compared to 30% on average across all five countries. Young Germans also attach less weight to respect for country-specific traditions and heritage than their peers do (28% vs. 35% on average).
On average, young adults in Germany are less worried about current social and environmental challenges (35% are “very concerned”) than in Greece (50%), Italy (42%) or Poland (44%). However, 71% of young adults in Germany still rank rising living costs as an urgent problem, as do 53% as regards energy insecurity and environmental destruction. This shows that young Germans are far from worry-free. Moreover, like their European peers, most young adults in Germany believe these issues will get worse rather than better over the next 10 years.
Although, by comparison, young adults in Germany are least likely to regard economic growth and high-paying jobs as crucial to a desirable future society (35% vs. 45% or more elsewhere), many are concerned about economic trends. Likewise, views on climate change are ambivalent at best: On the one hand, 54% believe Germany will become more climate-friendly this decade (vs. 50% on average across the countries surveyed). On the other hand, most believe that simply going greener might be too little, too late: Only 8% are very hopeful that “we can win the battle against climate change” (vs. 29% across all five countries), and 78% sympathize with the reticence to bring children into the world in times like these.
Despite their uncertainty as to whether the battle against climate change can really be won, young Germans who are concerned about the climate are just as likely as their peers abroad to get personally involved. So far, mostly by taking individual actions such as moderating their energy use, consumption and travel. Germans are also more likely than most to boycott products with a bad environmental footprint, with 50% having done so, compared to 45% across the other four countries.
In terms of collective action like participating in protests and other political events, young adults in Germany are about as active as their European counterparts, with 20% to 30% having already taken some form of action. Aside from climate change, issues that move concerned young Germans to engage include energy insecurity and environmental destruction (as well as – for left-leaning respondents – discrimination and racism). They are somewhat reticent when it comes to more labor-intensive or high-exposure modes of participation, such as working with a political party or organizing events. However, workplace engagement holds some potential, with 42% having already stood up for social issues at work and an additional +28% expressing a willingness to do so in the future (vs. +24% on average across all countries surveyed).
Appealing to altrustic motives seems most effective when it comes to motivating these potentially active citizens. Survey respondents who are already active say they are mostly driven by their own sense of civic duty. The desire to grow as an individual (47%) and inspire others through one’s actions (45%) are also effective drivers in Germany, more so than in the other countries surveyed (41% and 35%, respectively).
Barriers to civic action largely mirror those found in the other countries, with a lack of time and lack of information being the two most prevalent. Perceptions of the potential risks of engaging in civic action also mirror the other countries: Fifty-eight percent of young Germans believe it could lead to disadvantages (vs. 61% on average).
of young adults in Germany take civic action because they are motivated by personal growth
take action because they want to inspire others
The Allianz Foundation Next Generations Study identified six engagement types in Germany and the other countries surveyed. Among those who have taken little to no civic action so far, 12% of young Germans belong to the politically left-leaning group of Hesitant Progressives who have yet to act on their pronounced concerns about environmental and social justice. Members of the sizable Quiet Mainstream (37%) are also mostly inactive, but are less politically opinionated and interested. Their counterparts to the right are the Passive Traditionalists (5%), who despite their strong religious bent are not particularly involved in any social or environmental causes.
The smallest yet most organized of the three civically engaged groups are the Conservative Campaigners (7%), who through their actions seek to promote values of individual prosperity and national identity. The Proactive Center (25%) are less driven by any particular issue, but nonetheless willing to be involved in shaping the future, preferably through individual actions. Finally, the Progressive Movers (15%) are the youngest and most left-leaning group, as well as the one with the highest overall level of civic engagement.