Estimated figures suggest that 72 per cent of young people voted in the 2017 general election! That’s almost 30 per cent higher than in 2010 and eight per cent higher than the 2016 EU referendum! More young people voted for a political party than when the choice was as binary as yes or no!
In 2016, I published ‘Why Young People Don’t Vote’. One the main reasons I thought young people didn't vote was because of the complete lack of choice. I argued that young people (aged between 18 and 24) are much more likely to be leftwing. However, in 2010 and 2015, the only party that actually represented young people was the Green Party. There are two issues with this. Young people know full well that we have a first-past-the-post system and voting for the Green Party, outside of Brighton Pavilion, is like voting for the Monster Raving Looney Party. It’s utterly pointless because our electoral system ensures that they can’t win and that the vote is wasted. The other issue is that the Green Party doesn't get much publicity. So, for young people who don't really follow politics, they might never hear about the Green Party’s policies. Moreover, even if they did, we revert back to issue number one where the Greens simply can’t win. After pointing this out, I then argued: ‘if the party furthest to the left was capable of winning the election, more young people would turnout.’ What we had this year was Jeremy Corbyn and his leftwing manifesto. We had a Labour Party that was true to its socialist roots and a manifesto that really spoke to and represented young people. Low and behold, youth turnout increased by almost 30 per cent!
The final chapter of ‘Why Young People Don’t Vote’ gives some ways of solving the appalling youth turnout at previous elections.
Here are some of the suggestions I had back in 2015, which was also a factor for the record youth turnout in 2017.
This year and the EU referendum saw politics take hold of social media. Most notably, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat. As the majority of young people use social media platforms, it’s a great way of targeting young people.
Bite the Ballot
Bite the Ballot is a great organisation that attempts to get young people to register to vote and then, eventually, get out and vote. I believe Bite the Ballot has made a huge impact in recent years and their efforts shouldn't be overlooked.
The televised debates were missing one crucial person this year: the Prime Minister. Unfortunately for her, she missed out on an opportunity to connect to the wider public. However, saying that, I don’t think she would've been a match against Jeremy Corbyn as she struggles with answering questions from the weakest of interviewers. The TV debates are an important part of democracy as it gives us an opportunity to hear from politicians without a coating of media bias.
This year saw the likes of Stormzy and JME endorse Jeremy Corbyn. In fact, it saw most of the UK grime scene endorse the Labour leader. Moreover, it seemed like the entire celebrity universe was endorsing Corbyn. Celebrities have massive power. They can influence and change peoples’ minds. This worked in conjunction with the use of social media as young people were able to see celebrities endorse Corbyn. It also showed young people that not all politicians are the same. Musical genres such as rap and grime are very political. Usually they spread the word of disenfranchisement. What we saw was a genre endorsing a candidate because he wasn't like the rest.
I suggested back in 2015 that having charismatic candidates would encourage youth turnout. But, I must say this helps if the candidate represents young people. One of the main reasons why so many young people voted for Jeremy Corbyn was because of his personality. He’s an anti-establishment politician who stands up for the many. He’s not a typical politician who is in the back pockets of the wealthy and is only out for personal political gain. Young people saw this in Corbyn and it encouraged them to become engaged with the election. This also happened in the States with Bernie Sanders.
I was encouraged to learn that the House of Commons now has over 200 female MPs, the first turbaned Sikh MP, the first female Sikh MP, the first Palestinian MP and 45 LGBT MPs. Diverse representation is only a good thing and as more young people see candidates that are more representatives of themselves, the more likely they are to vote for them.
There are still things we can do to encourage even more young people to vote and to maintain this incredible number of young voters. Things like electoral reform, abolishment of voting registration and online voting. All of which will take legislation to implement, but all can be achieved and aren't silly ideas.
‘Why Young People Don’t Vote’ is still available to purchase on Amazon.