New RGU study to investigate political activism among young people

A new study by academics at Robert Gordon University (RGU) will investigate levels of political engagement among young people following the Scottish independence referendum.

The researchers, who have been awarded £30,000 by Communities and Culture Network+ to carry out the study, will map post-referendum social media activity and conduct a qualitative investigation of engagement among young voters who were aged 16-19 at the time of the referendum to determine whether the high levels of political engagement during referendum are translating into broader engagement with politics.

Working in association with the Scottish Youth Parliament, the team will carry out interviews with a range of teenagers who voted for the first time in the Scottish independence referendum, as well as interviews with political parties and campaign groups. 

Alongside this, the project team will identify relevant hashtags and social media accounts to map post-referendum social media activity among young people.

Drawing upon software developed by Professor Ayse Goker, Dr David Corney and Dr Carlos Martin Dancausa of the university’s Innovation, Design and Sustainability (IDEAS) research institute, this mapping activity will shed light upon changing patterns of participation and engagement in civic activism and political participation.

Principal investigator and Reader in Public Policy at RGU, Dr Peter McLaverty, said: “Our interviews will cover topics such as their likelihood of voting in upcoming elections, their ongoing involvement in social media sites such as Twitter and the political connections they make through these, as well as their involvement in equivalent offline political and civic activities.

“We will also conduct a series of interviews with campaign groups and political parties to determine their views on whether political engagement among young people, particular via social media, has been sustained in the post-referendum period.

“Combined with the outcomes of our social media mapping, the research will not only provide a broad understanding of how the referendum-related engagement has been sustained, but also a deeper understanding of the relationship between the referendum and ongoing engagement in political and civic activism.”

Professor Goker added: “I am delighted that our technical work in mining social media is being part of collaborative research into political engagement and society.”

Release by
Jenny Rush
Communications Officer | Design and Technology