Almost one in every three people in Malta under the age of 30 say they do not intend to vote in next month’s European Parliament elections, the highest rate in Europe, a new EU-wide survey reveals.

The study finds that fewer than half Malta’s youths, 47%, say they intend to vote in the election. Only youths in Latvia and Luxembourg appear to be less enthusiastic about the election.

This comes hot on the heels of another EU study which found that voter turnout amongst all Maltese voters could collapse.

The Eurobarometer survey on youth and democracy asked youths between the ages of 15 and 30 from around Europe about their views on politics, their lifestyles and their participation in civic life, amongst other things.

546 youths in Malta were surveyed in early April, several weeks before the recent political turmoil in Malta brought about by the conclusion of the Vitals magisterial inquiry.

Voting won’t make our voices heard: Maltese youths

Only 22% of Malta’s youths believe that voting in elections is the most effective way to make their voices heard, far below the EU average of 38%, suggesting a growing disconnect between young voters and electoral politics.

A more effective way to make yourself heard, Malta’s youths say, is to express your opinion on social media, to participate in student or youth organisations, or to take part in public consultations.

In general, young people in Malta appear to be less politically engaged than their European peers.

Over a quarter of all youths in Malta say that they are ultimately not interested in politics at all, compared to 19% of Europeans. One in four say that they are not interested in the topics being discussed during the campaign and that the EU does not deal with problems that concern them.

Worryingly, the study hints at young people’s disenchantment with politics.

One in five say that they distrust the political system and that their vote will not change anything, while the same number say that they never vote in political elections at all.

Climate change the most pressing issue 

Nevertheless, 45% of youths in Malta say that they have taken some action to change society over the past year, such as participating in a rally, signing a petition, or writing to a politician.

Climate change appears to be the issue most at heart to youths in Malta.

Half of all those took some action to change society say that their action addressed the environment, more than youths in any other country. Meanwhile, almost 40% say that fighting climate change should be the EU’s greatest contribution to their generation.

On the other hand, Malta’s youths are less interested in several other issues, including human rights, war, rule of law and health.

Exercise-shy Maltese youths

The study also reveals some worrying trends about the lifestyle habits of Malta’s youths.

Only one in ten say they exercise or carry out physical activity four times a week, comfortably the lowest rate in Europe. A further 44% say they exercise between two and four times a week.

Youths in Malta are also the least likely in Europe to have joined a sports club, with only 16% saying that they have participated in a sports club’s activities in the past years, less than half the rate of their European peers at 33%.

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