Pessimistic youth want Olmert to go

Teenagers are highly dissatisfied with both Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the overall prospects for the future of the country's politics, according to a new poll conducted by the popular youth Web site In an age bracket where the outlook on politics is generally one of either apathy or idealism, the poll paints a picture of pessimism and cynicism. The poll questioned 509 participants between the ages of 12 and 18: 61.8 percent said Olmert should resign immediately; 6.6% thought the prime minister should resign only if criminal charges were brought against him; 5.5% said Olmert should not resign; and 25.9% of respondents had no opinion on the matter. The poll had a margin of error of three percent However, Olmert's resignation, or fall from power, would not mark an end to the youth's negative outlook. Instead, the poll goes on to highlight how confidence in government cannot rise while the perceptions of corrupt politicians remain high. Its findings reflect the mainstream public sentiment that transparency, honesty and accountability are important characteristics for politicians: 55.7% of respondents said Olmert, Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu and Labor chairman Ehud Barak were "very corrupt." Tal Zvi Netanel, deputy CEO of marketing for Shin1, tried to put the sentiments in greater context. "Teenagers are sick of politicians and politics just like everyone else. At the end of the day teenagers reflect the opinion of the rest of the public, which sees politicians as corrupt by definition," he said. While these numbers might reflect actual youth sentiment, political science professor Gideon Doron of Tel Aviv University does not think they should be seen as overly alarming, and is more willing to be dismissive of any long-standing implications stemming from the findings. Referring to what he termed the "insincerity of youth in Israel," Doron said youngsters did not often take the time to establish fully informed opinions. "Most youth get their news from [satirical] programs such as Eretz Nehederet; it's insincere. They hear something and take a position." He also said that given the nature of Israel's multi-party political system, 75% of the Knesset seats were held by non-Kadima MKs. Therefore, the findings of this poll should not be that surprising. If so many Israelis were against Olmert from the beginning, why should now, especially in light of all the corruption allegations, be any different. Doron believes that the strong sentiments against Olmert are part of a long-standing emotional reaction to failures of the present government. This stretches back to the Second Lebanon War in 2006 and should not be seen as isolated responses to the Talansky affair, he said. Whether or not one is willing to dismiss the Shin1 poll as quickly as Doron, one cannot discount the fact that Israeli youth are disenchanted, or at least want to be seen as such. It appears that their belief in the political system has dissipated. Who could be the catalyst for reinstating such a belief remains to be seen. Yet this is not a task that Netanel believes can be ignored. Given the many new eligible young voters in the next election, when asked if politicians must pay more attention to youth sentiments and highlight that their concerns are being taken into account, Netanel answered: "Unequivocally yes."