Young people link politics with parties, national news and international matters

by Margarida Maneta and Mariana Muller, Lusófona University, CICANT, Portugal.

Between May and September 2023, YouNDigital – Youth, News, and Digital Citizenship project, interviewed 42 young people aged between 15 and 24 living in Portugal. The participants were invited to talk about their news consumption in semi-structured interviews that took place via Zoom. Among the 42 young people interviewed, there were residents of mainland Portugal and the islands (Azores and Madeira), and distinct nationalities: Portuguese (36), Brazilian (4), and Bissau-Guineans (2).

The interviews focused on news consumption revealed that the main topics associated with politics include political parties, national affairs, and international issues. Young people also indicated that politics is something they need to comprehend better or learn about, in the meantime they associate it with negative emotions, elections, and cases of corruption/scandals.

Thematic axisNumber of mentions
Political parties28
National affairs16
Something they need to learn or discover8
Politics is associated with negative emotions8
Politics is in every dimension of our lives1

When reflecting on their news consumption, 35 young people spontaneously mentioned politics. They were asked to clarify what they were referring to. The majority referred to political parties, national affairs and international issues, as shown in the excerpts below:

“I don’t know if this counts as politics, but about abortion. And about how these laws work in the United States.” (Carolina, 15 years old, high school student)

“I think it’s more about the situation we’re in, who the leaders are, the events that are happening around them.” (Tânia, 24 years old, mechanical engineer)

Politics is associated with something not well known or that young people need to learn about.

“Whenever we talk about politics, my first thought is ‘there’s still a lot I don’t know, that maybe I should already know or I should try to find out as soon as possible’.”  (Raquel, 18 years old, finished secondary school and couldn’t say what she would do next)

For various reasons, such as politicians involved in scandals, young people relate politics with negative emotions.

“It’s not a very good thing that goes through my head to define politics [laughs]. […] it’s not so much one of the things that I consume the most and like the most.” (Catarina, 20 years old, undergraduate student)

Interviewees associate politics with corruption cases with media repercussions and with elections, as excerpts show.

“For example, the corruption cases. Sometimes I wish I didn’t know they existed and thought that everything was perfect’ (Joana, 22 years old, master’s student)

“The question of which party or which president I want to vote for.” (Pedro, 18 years old, finished secondary school, about to start an undergraduate course)

One interviewee associated politics with everyday experiences and different dimensions of life.

“For me, politics is everywhere. And everything we do, at any time, every decision we make involves politics. […] Politics is a very general term and it’s everything.” (Manuel, 22 years old, physiotherapist)

Sometimes young people refer to politics in more than one axis identified, as Bernardo shows:

“From current affairs, national, international politics. Um, maybe more national… Um, maybe less the economic part. It’s current affairs, it’s current affairs.” (Bernardo, 23, master’s student)

The seven interviewees who didn’t use the word politics also made references to the topic without acknowledging it, for example by referring to issues such as public investment, the economy, housing, and domestic violence. The fact that they didn’t mention politics directly doesn’t mean that they didn’t associate their information consumption with current issues or reflect on satellite dimensions of politics.

“Another thing that plays an important role for me is the economy. […] I think it’s important for us to be aware of how the economy is doing here in Portugal, now that inflation and prices are rising.” (Sara, 16 years old, high school student)

“…there are other issues that perhaps should be talked about more in the news, such as the state of mortality, domestic violence, which are often hushed up” (Duarte, 21 years old, completed secondary school, works as a car painter and plasterer)

“I think the war should be over. Because it’s been going on for a long time. […] I think there should be peace by now.” (Mário, 24 years old, completed secondary school and says he wants to work in IT)

To explore young people’s interests in current topics that have an impact on their lives, the YouNDigital Newsroom is a space for a dialogue between multiple perspectives, based on sharing topics that are of particular interest to younger groups of society, in line with the 2030 agenda. The Newsroom is open to young people from all over the world and accepts publications in Portuguese, English, Spanish, Italian, and French. For participating and for more info click here.

To get an overview of these issues, this year the YouNDigital project has released a public online database focused on youth, news and digital citizenship that comprises literature from the beginning of the 21st century. Our database is always open to improvements. If you wish to contribute, you can do it here. We also invite you to subscribe to our newsletter to keep up to date with all the latest news.

YouNDigital – Youth, News and Citizenship (DOI 10.54499/PTDC/COM-OUT/0243/2021) is a research project based in Lusófona University, CICANT, Portugal, and funded by The Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT). The initiative is pioneering the study of the link between young people, news, and their digital citizenship, seeking to understand these fluid dynamics in a society challenged by algorithms, and facilitating training in the area. The project is coordinated by Maria José Brites (CICANT, Lusófona University) and Teresa Sofia Castro (CICANT, Lusófona University).


Margarida Maneta, Research Team, Lusófona University, CICANT, Portugal.

Mariana Muller, Research Team, Lusófona University, CICANT, Portugal.