The 2021 Youth Barometer
Tomi Kiilakoski (ed.)
The Youth Barometer is a survey measuring the values and attitudes of young people aged 15–29 living in Finland. It has been carried out annually since 1994. The themes of the 2021 Youth Barometer were sustainable development and climate. The study was based on 1,835 phone interviews.
The purpose of the study was to examine young people’s experiences at the individual level and their views on extensive climate policy measures in society. The respondents were presented with questions and statements about attitudes towards climate and the environment, climate knowledge and emotions, consumption habits and their sustainability, as well as about their views on climate policy and sustainable development goals.
A clear majority of young people (87%) trusted science in environmental issues, and 72% agreed with the statement “I am well aware of climate issues”. This result is in line with the results of previous Youth Barometers, which indicate that the majority of young people trust their abilities to understand key issues in modern society. The most important sources of environmental knowledge were media outlets (television, radio, newspapers, magazines and films), with 78% of the respondents reporting that they had received a large amount or a fairly large amount of information from these sources. Following these, the most important sources of knowledge were social media (74%), schools and educational institutions (67%) and scientific publications (65%). Social media was the most important source of knowledge for young people aged 15–19. The most common climate emotions were the good feeling arising from sustainable choices and sadness caused by loss of biodiversity and the extinction of species. The importance of preserving biodiversity for young people is also evident from other responses. More than half of the respondents (59%) had discussed climate anxiety with others frequently or occasionally.
Out of the respondents, 39% reported having given up something important for them for environmental reasons. Women had given up something that was important to them more often than men. The proportion of respondents who had changed their consumption habits at least occasionally was 85%. The respondents were asked in more detail about eight environmentally friendly consumption decisions. Almost half of the respondents (47%) had made seven or eight of the specified consumption choices at least occasionally. Young people aged under 18 had made more environmentally friendly choices as consumers than those aged 18 or over. General or university education and political self-identification with the left, as well as the belief that consumption behaviour plays an important role in solving environmental problems, were associated with making more environmentally friendly consumption decisions.
Nine out of ten respondents (90%) agreed with the statement that climate change caused by human action is a fact, while 86% strongly agreed or agreed with the statement that the inherent value of nature must be taken into account in decision-making. The respondents regarded purchase decisions and voting as the most effective ways to influence climate issues. Out of the respondents, 78% felt that these have at least a fairly strong impact. Other methods that were considered to have at least a fairly strong impact were demonstrations (41%) and climate strikes (38%). The youngest respondents, women and those who were attending or had general or university education, as well as those with a political self-identification with the left, were more likely than others to regard demonstrations as an effective way to have an impact.
Slightly more than two-thirds of the respondents (70%) agreed with the statement that globally sustainable solutions will be found to environmental problems. Nine out of ten respondents (90%) felt that changing production methods is at least fairly important in solving climate problems. Information and education were considered at least fairly important by 89%, new technological solutions by 89% and consumption behaviour by 85%.
Out of the respondents, 80% were very optimistic or optimistic about their own future. The level of confidence in the future was at a high level compared with previous Youth Barometers. The proportion of very optimistic respondents was at its highest this year in terms of confidence in their personal future and the future of Finland, their place of residence, the world and Europe. On a scale of 4 to 10, young people’s satisfaction with their life was 8.2. This was the same level as in 2016 and 2017.