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Casting a Vote—Complexities and Strategies among “First-Time Voters” in their Approach to Elections

Karlstads Universitet
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  • Political Science


When asked directly, most young people show off a general disinterest in politics. This is hardly surprising, but fits nicely in an overall framework of lack of political knowledge and democratic engagement, often referred to as “democratic deficit” (Norris 2011) or simply “minimalism” (Lau 2003). However, Scandinavian youth, like the electorate in total, display a very high voter turnout compared to most countries. Still, in an empirical study among students in a Danish upper secondary school we were often confronted by an apparent discrepancy like the following: “Are you interested in politics?” “No”. “Do you follow the news?” “No”. “Do you know who to vote for at the next election”? “Yes”. The prevailing paradox between apparent political disengagement and readily participation in the election is being reinforced by the fact that our respondents were selected among presumptively politically interested students, who all have chosen social studies as their primary subject of immersion. This article discusses the decisions, paradoxes and ambivalences which these young people face when becoming political. We claim that the individuals in our study handle this discrepancy by the active use of different, sometimes contradictory strategies, and by the use of certain cognitive heuristics. We aim at discussing a theoretical framework for studying this phenomenon before we conclude and make some recommendations.

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