Document Type

Honors Thesis


Political Science


Ryan LaRochelle

Committee Members

Amy Fried, Robert Glover, Nicholas Micinski

Graduation Year

May 2023

Publication Date

Spring 2023


The purpose of this thesis is to explore the connection between climate change and youth political participation. Using data from a large, cross-national survey done by the University of Bath in the United Kingdom, this project analyzed young people’s emotional responses to climate change. This project synthesized and brought together two threads of scholarly literature in order to make claims about how emotional responses to climate change may be influencing youth political engagement. The line of scholarship explores how emotions traditionally influence political behavior. This research indicated that emotions such as anxiety can have a debilitating effect on people and prevent them from getting involved politically. The second focus of the research was on young people’s relationship to voting, and why they traditionally are not as active as other age groups. This project notes that there is a serious lack of data connecting emotions to youth political behavior. This project’s finding suggests that these forces may be connected in ways that scholars have not fully explored and that future research should analyze this relationship in more detail. The data shows that climate change is a topic young people feel very strongly about. They do not feel heard or represented by their governments when it comes to this matter, which could be a partial explanation for their political inaction. Young people in the U.S. have been more involved in more recent elections than they have been in the past, but it is too early to tell if this will be a long-term, consistent trend. Regardless of this, it is evident that climate change is an important topic for Gen Z, and that emotions may play a more complex role in youth political behavior than previously thought.

Rights and Access Note

Copyright 2023 Norbury All Rights Reserved