Will young people be voting on Thursday?

Traditional relationships between class and voting behaviour are not what they used to be. This week’s Euro-election will, it seems, only confirm this, with Labour desperately trying to unite ‘pro-Brexit’ traditional northern working-class supporters with  recent converts – the more affluent socially progressive but staunchly pro-European voters of London and the south.

Despite the excessive media speculation, there’s been little attention given to young people –  the group that has fared worst since the economic downturn.  It’s true that the young are not a homogeneous group, but nevertheless, post-referendum polls found over 70% of voters aged 18 to 24 had sided with Remain, compared with fewer than 40% of over-65s.

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At the 2017 General Election, YouGov estimated that Labour, with its promise to end tuition fees and effective social media campaign was supported by two-thirds of first time voters (those aged 18 and 19) –  but by less than a third of those 60-69 and just a fifth of those in their 70s.

There’s now a much stronger correlation between support for Labour and levels of education.  The current generation of young people are the most qualified, while it’s their  ‘baby boomer’ parents, who have (or at least many  have)  become  more ‘conservative’ as they’ve got older – no longer being the ‘children of the sixties'(!)  In 1987 by way of comparison, 18-24s preferred Labour to the Conservatives by just two percentage points, while over-65s preferred the Tories by 14 points (FT 20/06/17).

 

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But in both of these votes, as the YouGov estimates show, the key issue has been  turn-out.

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Though still being lower than other groups,  the General Election turnout was the highest since 1992.  In the Euro referendum the year before, despite  clear support for Remain, it’s been estimated that just 34% of under 25s turned up to vote, compared with over 70% of 55-64’s and 80% plus of those over 65 (Dorling & Tomlinson 2019 p25).  Will young people be voting on Thursday – and for who?

2 thoughts on “Will young people be voting on Thursday?

  1. This is a good reason for extending the voting age to include 16/17 year olds, as in devolved Scottish elections, to all UK elections.

    If young people get into the habit of registering to vote at 15 years of age and voting while they are still at School/College, and if Schools/Colleges open themselves up to facilitate and encourage participation in electoral and political debates as part of civic responsibility/understanding and a broader education-focussed curriculum, as is increasingly happening in Scotland, then the participation rate at 18-25 is also likely to rise significantly.

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