Values, Challenges, and Opportunities for a New Political Generation

November 19, 2013

On November 19, 2013, AGI hosted a workshop on “Values, Challenges, and Opportunities for a New Political Generation in Germany and the U.S.” with the support of the Transatlantic Program of the Federal Republic of Germany with funds from the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi).

Panel One: Values of the New Political Generation

Every generation finds its own unique ways to participate in politics.  Though complaints about youth participation today are common, the millennial generation will nevertheless mature into political beings in its own way.  The panelists discussed the similarities and differences of political participation by the millennial generation in the United States and Germany.  The young generation of coming-of-age voters is more interested in participating in demonstrations and protests than voting and voicing their political interests through formal, traditional platforms.  Young people are also more interested into direct services in their communities than participating in traditional forms of politics, due in part to their frustration with its slow capacity for change. The millennial generation tends to reach consensus on liberal social positions like gender equality and marriage rights.

German youth generally have more trust in their government. They also act in similar ways to the previous generation in terms of exercising their political rights.  The German system of education and rigid labor market structure also means that success in education and career is still tightly correlated to the individuals’ class background.   Both in the United States and Germany, young people are facing increased financial pressure.  While it is common for them to express their dissatisfaction with the social economic situation, youth both here and in Germany are lacking direct political input into the established democratic process.


Pia Bungarten, Friedrich Ebert Foundation
Eric Langenbacher, Georgetown University
John Della Volpe, Harvard University Institute of Politics

Panel Two: The Online Forum: Organization and Debate

The second panel highlighted the main trends of the use of social media among younger demographics. Whereas some hope that a participatory revolution will be evoked by the internet and the new available mediums, the reality looks different; the online political engagement in Germany is very limited and usually only those who are active offline decide to use online media. The survey also revealed that politicians were unable to win votes by their online efforts in the recent election, and failed to reach the groups they wanted to reach: mainly voters with a migrant background or from poor households.

The main reason for the failure of increased social media use in German politics is partly due to the very limited funding of the campaigns, which is in extreme contrast to the funding of American elections. Furthermore, in the U.S. the campaigns are candidate-oriented and social media is a personalized platform. In Germany, the parties have had difficulties gaining momentum online. Finally, the issues that are discussed on social media play an important role in the impact of online media: especially in Germany, many of the policies discussed did not affect young people, and thus they did not feel responsible to engage in the discussions.

In the U.S., social media is more widely used, but politicians also faced the problem that they were unable to reach previously unreachable voters. In conclusion, the Internet is mainly another platform where politics take place, without having major effects on the division or ideologies of the voters or parties.


Claudia Ritzi, Helmut Schmidt University
Aaron Smith, Pew Research Center

Panel Three: Diversity in Representation and Action

The third panel discussed the immigration and integration efforts in Germany and the U.S. In Germany, the topic is insufficiently discussed and was not mentioned at all during the 2013 elections. Politicians with a migration background are underrepresented in parliament, and the few who are members usually assume positions related to integration.

Another issue in Germany is that migrants are viewed as one homogenous group—a concept that leads Germans at times to view the United States as a role model of integration. However, the panel agreed that the U.S. is also still far from a being a model of integration, and is also facing severe immigration issues.

Both the millennial generation and those with a migrant background are important in the political sphere and must be included in future political campaigning and policy changes.  Mobilizing these groups will have implications for all political parties and they use new mediums to attract new leaders.


Ali Aslan, Deutsche Welle TV
Raffi Williams, Republican National Committee

Please view the agenda here.

DATE: Tuesday, November 19, 2013
TIME: 8:30am – 1:00pm
LOCATION:  Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
The Choate Room; 1779 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20036