Stop telling young people to vote and give them a reason to

11 May 2017

 

Since the calling of a snap general election in late April everyone from celebrities on social media to politicians themselves have been calling for young people to register to vote. While it is undoubtedly good for democracy if more people turn out and vote on June 8th it is understandable why young people might not. While many have asked for people to register, the policies have not followed and young voters have not been given a reason to vote yet.

 

Policies on housing, on tuition fees or on apprenticeships and job creation, things that rank highly on the issues younger demographics care about, have been strangely missing from the initial campaign debate. Instead many of the early pledges have focused on public sector spending or the economy which probably have more appeal to older generations and the famous ‘just about managing’ families.

 

While young people should register to vote before the deadline on 22nd May in order to increase the importance of their voice, it would be warmly welcomed if the politicians offered something to vote for.

 

Acceptance of the situation

 

In 1992 the turnout of those aged 18-24 was up at 63% but 2015 saw just 43% of 18-24 year olds vote. This decline has become a self-perpetuation circle, once politicians see younger demographics not voting, policies that appeal to that generation become less of a priority which in turn continues the decline in voting turnout and so the downward spiral continues. While some might argue politicians should be the people who break this cycle, they rely on gaining public support to retain their job which they couldn’t rely on with younger voters. It is a political chicken and egg situation.

 

The situation has become exacerbated in recent times as the focus on the largest voting demographic, over 65’s, has seen a large swing in financial fortunes. Recently for the first time in decades the average income of a pensioner overtook the earnings of an average working person. Given the voting intentions in this age group it may then be unsurprising that in the opening weeks of the election campaign the debate focused on the triple lock on pensions rather than any topic that might appeal to younger or non-voters. 

 

 

In recent times there has been an acceptance of this and little has changed to stop the spiral of apathy. In September 2016 however, Jeremy Corbyn, was re-elected with a 17pt average lead over rival Owen Smith in 18-39 year old categories combined. This wave of younger voters changed the electoral strategy of the party. The move to the political left demanded by some of Corbyn’s support meant that trying to appeal to Conservative voters had been abandoned and the focus became trying to attract new, younger voters.

 

Labour missing a trick?

 

With this electoral strategy in mind it seems strange that Labour has focused on issues that remain closer to older generations. A promise to keep the triple lock on pensions and free school meals were early campaign pledges which while they may be welcomed by younger voters do not hit any key young demographic interests. Housing remains strangely off the agenda despite this area being a huge concern nationwide but particularly to younger people looking for a step on the housing ladder.

 

Other areas of interest to millennials and similar ages such as apprenticeships, tuition fees and better paying jobs have also been largely missing from the election policy releases. From a Labour perspective it is confusing as the party continues to make repeated appeals to young people to register and need a larger turnout from this age demographic to stand a chance of winning.

 

Ideally everyone, young and old, should register to vote but if getting younger voters out in to the polling booth on June 8th is part of your election winning strategy then it might be advisable to offer them a reason to. The topics that young people are most interested in seem to have mysteriously disappeared from the headlines right when they should be front and centre in order to get people interested and registered before May 22nd.

 

 

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