A nationwide study that was done by Flacso University, points out that the youth in Ecuador has a lot of interest in politics, but a lot less in political parties. Flacso carried out the study on the initiative of NIMDs counterpart in Ecuador, Ágora Democrática (IDEA-NIMD), and with the support of the Canadian Cooperación Internacional. The study forms the basis of the project involving Ecuadorian youth that is scheduled until mid 2013.
With the adoption of the new constitution in 2008, Ecuadorian politics opened its doors to voters under the age of eighteen. Young Ecuadorians between sixteen and eighteen years old are since 2008 allowed to vote if they wish to do so. Voting is mandatory for citizens older than eighteen. This group of sixteen to eighteen year olds represent about 800.000 potential voters. A number that should not be taken lightly in a country where about 8.000.000 people are allowed to vote. But does this group of youngsters actually care about politics and more importantly, do they vote? A recent nationwide study by the news magazine Vistazo shows that they do. About 65% of the youngsters under eighteen chose to vote in the elections of 2009. This percentage shows more than just the willingness to walk to a ballot box and cast a vote, it shows a clear interest and involvement in politics.
A survey that was part of the nationwide study showed that the interest in politics is even higher amongst youngsters than amongst adults. About 15% of the Ecuadorian youngsters is apparently very interested in politics against a mere 10% of adults. The percentage of people who are somewhat interested in politics remains equal between the youth and the adults at about 30%. Another interesting result of the study is that the interest for politics amongst youngsters is higher in coastal and rural areas than in the mayor cities. In most Latin American countries the president has a more prominent role in politics than the party he or she represents. It is therefore not surprising that more than 50% of the Ecuadorian youngsters think that a strong leader is more efficient in dealing with the nations problems than a political party or institution, yet still in a democratic fashion. What is surprising, is that still 23% of young people would not mind being governed by an authoritarian government.
Although interest and voting participation is high, it yet remains a challenge to get the youth actively involved in party politics. Only one out of four youngsters says they would consider aligning themselves with an organized political structure in the future. Most would then also choose to align themselves with the current governing party, Alianza PAIS. The interest in politics is being fueled by the different types of media. Most young people get their information from the television and the internet, with the internet also serving as a forum for discussion. The involvement of the youth takes proper form in the so called Advisory Councils which exist since 2007. These councils consist of youngsters between the ages of 8 and 17 and operate on a local, regional and national scale. It gives young people a voice. The active attitude of the Ecuadorian youth towards politics shows that democracy in Ecuador has a bright future.