Guest blogger Josh Parry writes:
Aberystwyth’s Professor of Politics Richard Wyn Jones met with 6th formers in Cardiff today to talk about why young people didn’t vote. It’s a very important question, when less than 39% of youngsters under 24 vote at Westminster elections and only 11% of those under 24 vote at council elections. Why don’t youngsters vote at elections? Most youngsters don’t vote at elections because they find politics to be dull and uninspiring. Young people don’t think politics is something that is going to affect them at all.
Not many youngsters can make a distinction between their own lives and Westminster and see how policies at Westminster will affect them. Youngsters can’t make any distinction between the parties as they all seem the same. No youngster really knows on what policies each party differs. There’s a lack of knowledge and understanding from us on what politics is really about.
What was interesting was when Richard Jones asked the 6th formers if they wanted the voting age lowered to 16. Only two people in a room of 100 youngsters wanted the voting age lowered to 16. I thought this was a staggering statistic. Does this show a complete lack of appetite among youngsters to vote at 16? Yes, when asked why they not wanted the voting age lowered. They said that there was no appetite to vote just yet and even though they can get married and drive a car at 17 they didn’t think policies at Westminster affect them when they were 16. When asked if they would vote at 18. The majority said they would for the sole reason that policies at Westminster would affect them.
They would vote at 18 rather than 16 because of higher education and taxes. They thought that it was important that parties would offer cheaper places at universities and help pay for the material thing that comes with universities like books and computers. Many thought they should scrap the top up fees as well. That’s the policies they said that would interest them more. Youngsters don’t here enough about policies.
One young person said there’s not enough to do and parties aren’t offering any policies that would solve that situation and more youth clubs isn’t the answer!!!Political Parties aren’t offering solutions to these types of problems that are facing the youths of today. Young people aren’t hearing about policies that will affect them now and at present. Their needs to be more policies directed at the young and young people need to be told what they are.
I think if we want more young people to vote we just need to reach out to them and be able to Connect with them and their everyday life and have an understanding between the two, because until then I think Young people just won't vote. Politicians need to engage youngsters through texts and through the internet. Politicians need to go into a mind of a teenager and find the best ways to connect with youngsters and how they want to be told about politics.
But do politicians care about young people’s opinions? I don’t think individual politicians actually engage with young people at all and don’t actually care about them. So if politicians don’t care about the votes of youngsters, why should youngsters vote? Politicians want to reach people who will vote for them so they aren’t necessarily going to target and talk to youngsters about policies if they won’t vote for these individual politicians.
So why should young people care if politicians don’t care about them? A lot of young people just don’t see that their vote would make any difference. Maybe we need to move with the times, we do everything else on the internet. Why can’t we get young people to vote online? If it was as easy as voting at a click of a button for young people maybe they would vote in their droves. We should start having more elected representatives who are as young as 18 and 19 in our parliament in order to get the youth vote across. There are a number of ways the number of young people who vote if there was voting reform, communicating political messages in more youth friendly ways, learning from best practice outside the UK, reshaping political culture inside the UK.
The simple thing is politicians need to engage with youngsters and tell them what they want to hear and keep their promises. Hopefully politicians will engage with youngsters and hopefully through schemes like the Welsh Baccalaureate youngsters will learn what politics is and will be encouraged to vote through the education system. The education system is key to youngsters learning about political parties, political system and policies. If the education system doesn’t teach them nobody will and more young people will be disillusioned with politics than ever before.