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Youth activism hotspots revealed by true student

Young people at a protest march

- Liverpool, Cardiff and Birmingham are the top three youth activism hotspots in the UK

- Racial equality, women’s rights and climate change are the issues at the top of the agenda for young people

-The top ten most popular causes and issues for young people in each city is published on

The youth activism hotspots of the UK have been revealed in a new map, following a recent national survey which shows that over half (58 per cent) of young people consider themselves to be activists or are interested in becoming one. In a study with over 2,000 15-22-year-olds* commissioned by true student, almost a third (32 per cent) identified as activists, while 26 per cent were keen to become activists.

The UK's top 10 youth activism hotspots as revealed in new research from true student

Liverpool was crowned the youth activism capital of the UK with the highest percentage of activists (43 per cent), followed by Cardiff (42 per cent) and Birmingham (38 per cent) in second and third place respectively. Plymouth (33 per cent), Glasgow (32 per cent) and Bristol (31 per cent) were revealed as emerging hotspots with the highest numbers of aspiring activists.

Young people at a protest march

The survey also asked young people to rank the issues they felt most passionate about. Nationally, the consensus was that racial equality is the most important (33 per cent), followed closely by women’s rights (28 per cent) and climate change (26 per cent). Animal welfare (26 per cent) and gender equality (23 per cent) followed closely behind, while global geopolitical issues came in last scoring only 8 per cent.

When it comes to engaging in activism, the results show how technology has revolutionised activism among this age group. Posting on social media is the most popular form of activism, with 40 per cent actively using their platforms to advocate for or to promote change, followed closely by signing petitions (38 per cent). This was a stark contrast to more traditional forms of activism, such as participating in demonstrations (12 per cent), strikes (11 per cent), boycotts (9 per cent) or pickets (7 per cent). Although relatively low, protests were most popular in the South-West of England (17 per cent), compared to the East of England where just 8 per cent of respondents were likely to go on a march.

The top ways that gen z engage with activism as revealed by new research from true student

The survey also exposed major disparities between the sexes when it comes to which causes they choose to support. While the top three causes for young women were women’s rights (45 per cent), racial equality (34 per cent) and animal welfare (32 per cent), young men highlighted racial equality (32 per cent), climate change (24 per cent) and social equality (23 per cent) as the most important issues to them.

The largest gap between the sexes was on women’s rights, with just 13 per cent of young men indicating this was a priority, compared to 45 per cent of young women. Across the majority of categories, young women were generally far more engaged and supportive than young men, particularly on social issues such as animal welfare (+13 per cent), gender equality (+13 per cent) and LGBTQI+ rights (+11 per cent). The only issues which scored higher for young men than women were religious freedom (+10 per cent), global geo-political issues (+ 5 per cent) and social equality (+4 per cent).

Student Aliya Machat from the University of Manchester

For some students, desire for social change is also an important factor in planning future careers as well as subject of study.Aliya Machat, 21, (right) is a sociology student at the University of Manchester. She said: “As a sociology student, I think I am very passionate about equality and the way society works. For example, racism, sexism, and poverty are some key issues I inspire to combat. I’d like to pursue a career that helps change occur in society and strives for a better future.”

Ben Morley, MD of true student said: “Young people are becoming increasingly issue-engaged and this survey provides fantastic insight into how Gen Z are exploring activism, what areas and causes they feel most passionate about and how they like to get their opinions across. It’s fascinating to see how young people in different cities across the UK are tackling these big issues, discovering what matters to them most and showing the confidence to express their beliefs with the power of social media”.

Ishaan Shah, the UK’s Youth Ambassador to the UN, said: “It is inspiring to see how young people are acting in their communities and their own innovative and extraordinary capacities…. Ultimately, we need to see more young people engaged in the fields of activism and advocacy. Through intergenerational learning and collaboration, we can provide accessible resourcing and capacity building to young people so that they can undertake their own grassroots projects. This will mark a transformative shift – from seeing young people not only as beneficiaries of change but as co-leaders and partners across all deliberative and decision-making processes."

UK’s youth activism hotspots (home to highest number of youth activists)

1. Liverpool 43.2%

2. Cardiff 42.2%

3. Birmingham 37.9%

4. Belfast 37.3%

5. Brighton 34.1%

6. Manchester 33.7%

7. Newcastle 32.1%

8. Glasgow 31.2%

9. Nottingham 31.8%

10. Southampton 30.6%

11. London 29.4%

12. Leeds 24.8%

13. Edinburgh 24.4%

14. Plymouth 27.9%

15. Norwich 27.3%

16. Bristol 26.14%

17. Sheffield 26.09%

Top ten most important issues, ranked by gen z

1. Racial equality 32.9%

2. Women's Rights 28.2%

3. Climate change / sustainability 26.2%

4. Animal welfare 25.4%

5. Gender equality 23.2%

6. Social equality 20.9%

7. LGBTQI + Rights 20.1%

8. Disability Rights 14.4%

9. Religious freedom 13.9%

10. Global geo-political issues 7.58%

Emerging youth activism hotspots

1. Plymouth 32.56%

2. Glasgow 32.47%

3. Bristol 30.68%

4. Norwich 29.09%

5. Belfast 28.81%

6. Leeds 28.68%

7. Sheffield 27.54%

8. Newcastle 27.16%

9. London 27.10%

10. Nottingham 26.17%

11. Birmingham 25.25%

12. Manchester 24.72%

13. Southampton 24.07%

14. Edinburgh 23.17%

15. Cardiff 22.89%

*The research was commissioned by true student and conducted by Censuswide with 2,006 UK respondents aged between 15-22 (nationally representative). Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles and are members of The British Polling Council.


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