There has been some debate about how many young people voted in last year’s EU referendum. Straight after the vote, pollsters said that just 36 per cent of people aged 18-24 turned out to cast their vote and a whole generation were branded apathetic, who hadn’t been bothered to have their say.
But we now know thanks to research by the London School of Economics that the turnout figure was actually 64 per cent – still not as high as their older counterparts (90 per cent of over 65s voted, for example) but much better than that original figure.
At Barnardo’s we support the lowering of the voting age to 16 in Westminster elections to ensure greater representation of young people at a national level. We need to emphasise how important political engagement for young people could be – we want young people to tell their stories and share their experiences to influence politicians and decision-makers.
With the general election on June 8 young people have another chance to influence national politics. In fact 750,000 British teenagers who were too young to vote in the referendum last year will have their first opportunity to vote and it’s vital they don’t miss this chance to make a difference. Politicians need to do more to bring young people into the political mainstream so they can have a say in key issues that affect them, or risk losing them to more extreme or direct means of action.
A failure to do this could result in more and more drifting to politics outside the establishment and while there’s nothing wrong with that per se, large-scale opting out of mainstream politics by a whole section of society is not a sign of a healthy, representative democracy.
We find that young people everywhere want to take part and that they don’t deserve to be called apathetic.
Director Barnardo’s East Region