No. 13




Youth Political Protest in France, Finland and Estonia

13 June 2006


RiTo No. 13, 2006

  • Marti Taru

    Researcher, Institute of International and Social Studies, Tallinn University

The article treats the participation of European youth aged 15 to 25 in protest actions that may include violence. Estonian, Finnish and French youth are the main subjects. The article is based on the consideration that participation in protest actions is influenced by views as well as social standing. The tendency to protest was measured using a consolidated index made up of six indicators: participation in illegal demonstrations, run-ins with the police, run-ins with opponents, damage to property, occupying of buildings and facilities, and traffic blocking. The empirical analysis took place in the framework of the EUYOUPART project on the basis of data gathered in December 2004. The correlations were evaluated using the Spearman correlation coefficient.

The differences between countries are noteworthy. Whereas among Italian youth, 22% had taken part in at least one action in the last 12 months, the figure was only 1-2% for English, Slovakian and Estonian youth, and 5% for Finnish youth. The findings place in doubt the trustworthiness of the indicator, and thus this value has since been treated as a more general indicator of protest.

Analysis of the data shows that general socio-political activity is a leading factor in participation in protest actions—protest is a natural part of social activism in individuals. Activism of close friends plays an important role—socio-politically active youths tend to interact with each other. Protest tendencies are higher for those whose parents are interested in politics and participate frequently in demonstrations. Their role model and support promotes high socio-political activism.

Among political attitudes, dissatisfaction with the government is a factor that promotes protest. The perceived urgency of problems and prospects for one’s own socioeconomic welfare in the future are practically unrelated with the propensity to protest.

On the basis of the correlations that emerged, we can conclude that youth participation in protest actions can be attributed to an existing model of behavior running its course, rather than a rational reaction to a social problem, even if the problem does affect youth directly. These correlations and this model have manifested themselves most strongly in the case of youth in France, and the least in the case of Estonian youth.

Full article in Estonian