Which country has the most conservative youth

Politics & ActionGeneration Z
Young, wild and conservative

The reactions that members of the Junge Union often encounter are surprise and curiosity. | Image: Silas Schwab
The reactions that members of the Junge Union often encounter are surprise and curiosity. | Image: Silas Schwab

27 Jun 2020

Snuggly, rich, stuffy. The prejudices are numerous, which is why hardly any young people outside of the CDU youth organization Junge Union call themselves conservative. Conservative means preserving what is - and there are many reasons for this. Three representatives of the political direction tell of their passion and what the stereotypes are all about.

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since winter semester 2019
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What does it mean to be conservative as a teenager? Three people tell.

The hair combed - the shirt ironed. This is how many imagine a conservative. Niklas, however, has long tousled hair, a beard and is wearing a metal hoodie. On Fabrice, on the other hand, the usual ideas apply: he goes golfing with the former CDU member of the Bundestag and well-known talk show guest Wolfgang Bosbach, wears a shirt under his sweater and speaks of Christian values. At first glance, they are like fire and water, but there is something that connects them: “Middle politics”, as Niklas calls it. A lot can be conservative. "Merz and Merkel are also completely different."

"For me, conservative means to be at the forefront of progress," Fabrice quotes the former CSU Prime Minister Franz Josef Strauss. But you don't have to think every newfangled appearance is great. The Greens, he says, always wanted to ban everything - he prefers “decent considerations and decisions”. Theresa, a 23-year-old student who is also at JU, wants to “assume what has proven itself”. She sees herself as part of a large social gathering: "I like when politics is done with calm and prudence."

Fabrice Ambrosini (19), student from Bergisch-Gladbach | Image: Peter Dresbach
Theresa Schlosser (23), student from Aachen | Image: Sebastian Schlosser
Niklas Schwab (20), student from Karlsruhe | Image: Who's Photos

On the one hand, almost all Germans between the ages of 16 and 29 rate order, home, security, stability and performance as positive in a 2013 study by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. On the other hand, the respondents have a problem with the term conservative: It is rated negatively by many. According to the Duden dictionary, conservative means “to hold on to what is traditional”. Many young people don't want that. Only 17 percent of those questioned in 2006 found it important to stick to the traditional (Shell youth study). Last year, the #niemehrcdu, which was supposed to defame the largest German conservative party, was trending on social networks for months. In the 2017 federal election, the CDU received eight percentage points less among 18 to 24 year-olds than in the general population. A conservative youth opposes this.

The divided youth

How do conservatives arrive at their position? Niklas has always been interested in politics. “I sympathized with the pirates for a long time, but all in all I was rather conservative.” Fabrice always complained about politics and was therefore involved in the JU. The reason for this were Christian values ​​which, according to him, no other German party represents. Theresa also invokes these values. For the young Union politicians, decisions do not always have to be spectacular. Instead, you can score with them with stability and calm. Niklas admires Chancellor Angela Merkel, but also ex-Chancellor Helmut Kohl and the former Prime Minister of Great Britain Winston Churchill. Theresa names Bundestag President and CDU politician Wolfgang Schäuble as her role model. "He always expresses himself so carefully."

There is a reason for the conservative efforts among young people: "Today it is the case that young people cannot hope to surpass their parents in terms of prosperity," explains political scientist Jens Hacke from the Humboldt University in Berlin. Because of this, conservatives would want to preserve what previous generations have achieved. What remains is the longing for security. Today's youth are divided into two camps: those who want to secure prosperity. And the others who didn't want to accept everything and take to the streets with Fridays for Future.

Fridays for Future tramples education

Conservative and with Fridays for Future - that is definitely possible, says Fabrice. He knows friends from the JU who have joined the school strikes. “Preserving creation is one of the most conservative issues,” he says. Nevertheless, he does not march - there are too many radical left groups there for him. In addition, the strikes would "trample the great good of education". Theresa also believes that you can stand up for your opinion, but not disregard compulsory schooling. Niklas is bothered by what he sees as the idealistic demands of the climate movement. Unlike the others, however, he admits mistakes: “In terms of the climate, our governments have been too cumbersome in the last few decades.” The demonstrators cannot be accused of this concern. But on the contrary.

For the Bundestag elections in 1994 and 1998, the federal legislature suspended the implementation of representative election statistics. | Source: Federal Returning Officer (2017) | Image: Silas Schwab

The phenomenon of “conservative young people” is not new. In contrast to the SPD's young electorate between 18 and 24 years of age, that of the CDU has hardly shrunk in the past 50 years. While the SPD has lost more than 35 percentage points among young people since lowering the voting age to 18, the CDU has lost around ten.

The snobbies come from the Greens

Fabrice sees a lot of prejudices projected onto the JU among the Greens: “They are the crowd here - they have the richest voters.” On the other hand, there are many craftsmen and young people from the countryside at the JU. He, Theresa and Niklas are often confronted with prejudices. Philipp Amthor, the conservative poster boy of the CDU, shapes the image that society has of them. “I'm already noticing”, says Niklas. In the JU group in which Theresa is active, there are only one or two who meet the prejudices.

Niklas always emphasizes being moderately conservative, because otherwise many would think: "Oh - there is a Nazi crouching in front of me" when he says that he is conservative. Sometimes he meets with rejection, more often amazement and curiosity. He's not ashamed to be conservative. "But I do not carry it in front of me." One problem with the term conservative is that the new rights make it their own, explains Hacke. They want to create an order that should have existed in the past. "This means that parties like the AfD are using this term."

The three young people are united by wanting to make politics based on experience, facts and the values ​​that are often invoked. And yet they are so different. Their politics will certainly be important in the future too. "Yes - conservative now doesn't exactly mean the future," admits Theresa. But a look back often gives important support. That's how you can see it. Or like the scientist Jens Hacke: "The conservative always comes too late because he only wakes up when there is something to preserve."

The author of this text is supported by the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung's young journalists support program. Through this scholarship, he found two of the three interviewees. The foundation neither initiated nor influenced the topic and the contribution. The author does not see himself as conservative and looks at the topic from the outside.