Because we are currently living in politically active times, the focus of this year's survey is "Politics online". The Internet makes politics more personal and more engaging – but information can also be manipulated.
The past year has been a time of intense political activity, particularly in the four countries studied. Elections in Singapore (September 2015), elections in Switzerland (October 2015), impeachment proceedings again President Rousseff in Brazil, and the presidential campaigns in the United States.
Despite the wide differences in national issues and circumstances, for the past several years politicians all around the world have had one form of communication in common. More and more, politicians are using the Internet and social media to get their messages across. But are they reaching the youngest members of the electorate? And are the messages well received? A majority of young people in the countries surveyed welcome the opportunity to discuss and comment on political issues online. They see this as beneficial to politics in their country. With the exception of Switzerland, there is broad agreement with the statement "Comments on Facebook, Twitter and other social media make politics more relevant and more engaging, motivating me to become more politically active."
Survey respondents also indicate that the Internet and social media have brought politics and economics closer to the people: "Because of online posts and comments, organizations and companies pay more attention to what people really want." More than 62 percent of those surveyed in the United States, Brazil and Singapore agree; only the Swiss are less convinced (51 percent). Perhaps the Swiss feel that they have sufficient opportunities to make their opinions known in their country's many elections and referendums.
Percentage of young people who think that content on Facebook and Twitter may be manipulated:
A large majority of respondents worldwide are aware that posts on Facebook, Twitter and the like can be manipulated. Conversely, only a minority (except in Singapore) believe that these posts are honest and not fraudulent. Here, the Swiss are especially critical. Only 19 percent believe that people present their true selves on social media. Everyone is familiar with trolls who only want to provoke and offend, rather than to contribute honestly to online conversation (more on the relationship between politics and the Internet in the roundtable discussion).
The Internet aside, what do young people see as their country's greatest problems? Particularly in Brazil, there is a range of problems that have raised concern for years. In 2016, more than two-thirds of 16- to 25-year-olds identify corruption and unemployment as major problems. No other country demonstrates such consensus. Unemployment is a major problem in all the countries, ranking among the top five problems in three countries; in Switzerland, 21 percent identify it as the biggest problem. Among all adults surveyed by the Credit Suisse Worry Barometer, unemployment has been a high-ranking issue for years. Young people in Switzerland are also concerned about the question of coexistence regarding the acceptance and integration of foreigners. In the first Youth Barometer (2010), 22 percent of those surveyed identified the refugee issue as a problem; today, it is 46 percent. Unsurprisingly, terrorism has risen in importance, holding first place in Singapore, second place in the United States and sixth place in Switzerland on the list of concerns. In 2010, 13 percent of Swiss identified terrorism as a problem; today, it is 23 percent.
In the United States, Brazil and Singapore there are growing concerns about health care, particularly about health insurance premiums. In Switzerland, this issue does not even crack the top 10. For years, a different social benefit has been a source of concern: the AHV system of state retirement provision, currently in third place.
Despite all of these concerns, young people are confident about the future – if somewhat less so than in years past. It isn't surprising that Swiss young people are the most optimistic (59 percent), but even a majority of young Brazilians (54 percent) continue to believe that their future is bright. In 2010, however, 67 percent of young Brazilians responded affirmatively. In the United States, a narrow majority have consistently agreed with this sentiment. In Singapore, just under half of the young people surveyed agree.