Politics affects young people in myriad ways- from the quality and content of their education to the money in their parents pockets. But a pall of indifference pervades British politics when it comes to the youth vote, attracting those who had it’s vital nature impressed on them. This has to change- the youth of the UK need to rise up and seize the chance to take their futures back from parties that fail to cater to their future.
There are, it seems, myriad studies trying to link age to votership turnout and strangely these studies never seem to glean much detail beyond the numbers. Focus tends to be on pure turnout, rather than reasons behind those who do not. After researching, the UK’s referendum to leave the EU showed that 64% of those registered to vote in the youngest decile turned out to vote, and out of those, an unsurprising 70% voted to remain in the European Union. Conversely, 90% of over 65’s turned out to vote, and voted overwhelmingly in favour of severing ties with the EU.
This phenomenon is strange- frankly, the older voters wouldn’t live to see the supposed economic benefits repeated so often by ostensible political figures like Jacob Rees-Mogg who has said it may take a literal lifetime for us to see benefits of leaving the EU. The youth vote could have made enough of a dent in the vote to tie, or even potentially swing to remain- their futures in the balance, but 46% of the youth didn’t feel politically inclined enough.
The question that always occurs to me when it comes to this is “why”?
Remembering my own youth, I never felt particularly galvanised around politics other than the issues that directly affected me (such as the gay marriage vote or the lib dems promise to cancel student loans etc).
It seemed to me that politics was an unchangeable beast which the voting base was really at the whim of, and that nothing would change if I voted or did not vote. But it’s this indifference I remember fighting against to ensure that my voice was heard amongst the many others. You can’t rely on other people to do the work for you- when it comes to voices being heard in concert, if you don’t attend the rehearsal you can’t complain about missing the performance.
The UK does a disservice to it’s youth by not actively encouraging engagement with politics- and it’s strange that this hasn’t been adopted like so many other aspects of culture and life from the USA. Life in the US is very closely linked to your affiliation with a political leaning, and you’re actively encouraged to engage with the democratic process of casting a vote- it is, in fact, seen as a patriotic duty to do so. The strange disconnect here is notable in it’s absence.
This piece, at PBS Teachers Lounge talks about the problematic idea of assuming that younger voters are indifferent to politics and the issues that affect the voting base as a whole- but highlight the ongoing issue that politicians do not focus on the young as a solid demographic who should be catered to and therefore a reluctance to engage can be understood.
I feel that it’s perhaps an overlooked (though not, as the piece above, notes) duty of education to encourage an engagement in political discourse. But I also feel like political discourse is purposely made to be overcomplicated as an attempt to spread disinterest in the people who are affected by it most.
As much as I fervently believe in the requirement of a larger shakeup of politics, I am also a believer in the necessity of a smaller change- the ingratiation of the voting public into the system which affects their lives.
Introducing political discourse to UK younger people should be a solid goal of political parties.
The young amongst the population are being squeezed by a conservative government who isn’t even pleasing it’s older person based voter demographic. Asked to pay their student loans back at a lower salary threshold less than 20 years after the amount paid to universities was hugely inflated. Property prices rising. Salaries stagnating. It’s vital that the youth of the UK realise their potential to swing elections by voting – and it’s on political parties to start embracing the potential power of the youth vote.