How place matters for young adults’ political engagement in rural settings
within the Industrial Doctoral School at Umeå University.
Differences between rural and urban areas have become a more important subject of political debate, as community service and job opportunities in rural areas has deteriorated. These differences have contributed to an increased polarization between urban and rural areas and political mobilization among rural residents. Despite this, there is a lack of knowledge of young adults’ political engagement in rural settings, and how place matters for their political practices.
Malin Rönnblom (Karlstad University) and Lotta Svensson (Hälsinglands Utbildningsförbund)
Young adults’ political engagement is vital for strengthening the civil society and trust in the democratic process. This is because political behavior and attitudes are formed during this life stage and have a prominent impact on the individual's future political behavior. However, current knowledge on youth political engagement is primarily based on young adults living in urban settings, at the same time as place is not often taken into account in relation to youth political practices. Hence, in this project, we will explore how young adults (aged 16-29) express their political and social concerns and how place matters for their political practices.
Understanding the significance of place is important for several reasons. There are important differences in the living conditions between urban and rural settings shaping young adults’ opportunities in life. For instance, the access to educational and work opportunities, welfare services and internet connection are generally worse in rural areas. Hence, there is a social divide between urban and rural settings. Additionally, young adults living in rural areas show lower trust in politicians and the democratic system and feel less involved in Swedish society. Such feelings of exclusion and distrust may contribute to an erosion of the trust in the democratic process and increase polarization between urban and rural settings.
The research design will follow an interpretative approach, seeking to build theory upon and empirically explore the meanings and actions of the research subjects, i.e., politically engaged young adults in rural settings. This will be explored during two different sub-studies: the first sub-study will study the political engagement of young adults in rural settings using interviews and focus group discussions (FGD), and the second sub-study will examine the political and social change-oriented networks in rural settings that involve young adults in rural settings using organizational studies.
The goal of the project is threefold, (1) to contribute with new knowledge on how young adults in rural settings express their political and social concerns, (2) develop new theoretical tools to understand the significance of place for young adults’ political practices, and (3) to spread this knowledge to authorities and municipalities working with improving youth influence and participation.