Young Poles: More Conservative, Yet Most Trusting of Democratic Institutions


Young Poles, both women and men, tend to be more conservative than their counterparts from other European countries, but at the same time, they place the most hope in well-functioning democratic institutions, such as independent media and courts. These are some of the findings from the first study on the civic engagement of young generations, conducted by the Allianz Foundation, an independent non-profit organization, together with the SINUS research institute.

The organization’s experts examined 10,000 people aged 18 to 39 in five European countries including, Poland, but also Germany, Greece, Italy, and the United Kingdom. One of the main conclusions from the study is a deep anxiety about the uncertain future, noticeable beyond European borders. Eight out of ten respondents in these countries expressed the view that they understand people who are afraid to have children in such an uncertain world. Life in the future will be much harder – young people fear.

Where does Poland stand in comparison?

“Looking at the results from these five countries, we can see many more similarities than differences,” says Dr. Simon Morris-Lange from the Allianz Foundation. “Young adults want to live in a safe, ecological world that offers fair work and the opportunity to secure a peaceful future. Almost three-quarters of them agree that the foundations of a modern society should be a well-functioning welfare state and an independent justice system. These values are not foreign in Poland, even though in the case of young Poles, one can notice a clear shift towards attitudes considered conservative,” underlines the expert of the Allianz Foundation.

Young Poles want a strong army… but also strong democratic institutions

Elements of conservative attitudes noticeable in the results include the perceived need for a strong army (52% compared to 30% in the rest of the countries). This is undoubtedly a direct effect of the war taking place beyond the eastern border of Poland – almost 60% of respondents fear that military actions could spill over to our country.

There is also a clear objection to child adoption by same-sex couples (69% disapproval; other countries show an average disapproval rate of just 39%).

However, the conservatism declared in the study by young Poles is not linked to authoritarian tendencies. On the contrary – compared to the other five countries studied, young people in Poland declare the highest trust in an independent justice system (78% of respondents) and independent media (62%). A significant majority of them (61%) see the need for societal participation in making essential political decisions for the country. These percentages are noticeably higher than the average across the other four countries in which the research was conducted.

What are we willing to sacrifice to defend democracy?

The majority of young respondents are aware that civic engagement may be accompanied by risk and inconvenience. As in the other countries studied, many young Poles are willing to take that risk. However, there is also a large group who express reluctance to engage due to fear of conflict with friends and family and incurring financial or career losses. In Poland, more respondents express such fears outright – that’s 32%, compared to 21% in other countries.

“Our study shows that young people in Poland and Europe are experiencing changes in their societies,” comments Esra Kücük, President of the Allianz Foundation. “At least two-thirds of respondents have already changed their daily habits, for example, becoming more sustainable consumers. About half are ready to become even more engaged in actions for a fair and green future. We see enormous potential for action in this! But many young people are still hesitant or simply do not know how to get involved. This is precisely where politicians and civil society representatives have a role to play – to rebuild trust and create appropriate paths to help young people engage in various actions,” argues Esra Kücük.

Younger generation is concerned about climate change, the older generation – the lack of freedom

In the Allianz Foundation study, the representatives of two generations were considered – millennials (from 27 to 39 years old) and Generation Z (from 18 to 26 years old). Surprisingly to external observers, the study showed that the differences between these two groups are usually small. Polish participants from Generation Z are slightly more optimistic about the future, and their major concerns are climate issues, diversity, and social justice. Millennials are more concerned about press freedom and issues related to the rule of law.

However, both groups are united in their anxiety about rising living costs – inflation is currently one of the most pressing problems for 84% of young Poles. The majority of them (68%) fear that the economic situation will deteriorate further in the next decade.

The study was conducted using the CAWI method from 12 September to 7 November 2022, on a representative sample of 2000 people from each country.