Ecuador’s youth are activists for environmental and social causes but are not ideological, study finds

Sep 16, 2023 | 0 comments

Ecuador’s young people overwhelming supported ending oil extraction in the Yasuní National Park. They also believe that the country’s taxation system should be overhauled to provide more reliable funding sources for education, health care and law enforcement.

The opinions and attitudes of young Ecuadorians are largely formed through the internet and social media.

Although they favor a stronger role by government in providing basic services and employment opportunities, they are wary of government overreach that restricts basic human rights such as freedom of speech.

These are some of the findings of a survey of hundreds of Ecuadorians aged 16 to 23 conducted by University of Guayaquil graduate student Ramiro Quintana. “What we found is that that the youth of Ecuador are activists on many issues, such as climate change and improving services for the poor, but they are not ideological,” he said. “Based on traditional political labels, they could be defined as center-left but they do not support organized leftist movements such as socialism and communism.”

Quintana’s work, assisted by La Hora newspaper and the Cedatos-Gallup polling service, is part of larger South American project surveying the social and political attitudes of young people.

Compared with surveys taken in the past, Quintana says young Ecuadorians are much less likely to join established political parties and movements. “Although they support groups focused on specific issues, such as stopping extractive activities like mining, expanding free university education, and climate change, they are less interested in traditional conservative, centrist or leftist politics. They see most of traditional politics as a relic of the past.”

In what Quintana describes as a representative response to a question about the role of socialism and communism in shaping the future of Ecuador and Latin America, one respondent said, “These are the ideas of old men that may have worked in the 20th century, but they don’t today.”

On the other hand, Quintana says the young overwhelmingly reject right-wing political figures such as former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro and former U.S. president Donald Trump. “They see them as would-be dictators, like [Daniel} Ortega and [Nicolas] Maduro, who are interested in restricting freedoms of expression, opportunity and movement. To the young, they see no contradiction in equating Bolsonaro with Ortega and Maduro.”

Quintana believes opinions and attitudes of the new generation are largely the result of the internet and social media. “Today’s youth grew up in a very different social environment than their parents and grandparents. It is much more free form, much more focused on individual freedom and individual choices,” he says. “This is difficult to define and explain using the political language of the past.”

On the question of who they favor in Ecuador’s presidential runoff, 61% of 1.080 young respondents favored Daniel Noboa while 32% plan to vote for Luisa González. “What is notable here is that opinions are not very political and only loosely based on the issues. Most of the respondents say they are tired of the old faces.”

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