With the general election passed discussions have heated up in parliament on how to engage the younger generation more. Do we care about voting or is it something we simply have no interest in Tanika Mcsherry asks
May the 7th saw the arrival of the first general election in the UK for five years. With current prime minister David Cameron doing his best to stay in power and other party leaders such as Ed Milliband challenging this we had no shortage of political propaganda over those last weeks. However it would seem that one of the main battles during this election was one taking place outside of the Houses of Parliament and amongst the voters themselves.
Government figures showed that on May the 7th there was to be around 3.3 million young people who had never voted before now faced with the option to do so. This may seem like a positive thing to many however if you look further at the figures you will find that more than two million of those young people choose not to use their right and instead refrained from voting. This has sparked a huge discussion amongst not just politicians and the government but the media as well.
With news reports and TV programmes now focused on tackling the question on nearly everyone’s lips, “why won’t young people vote?”. It was one of these programmes that lead me to host my very own big debate to look into the issue further. I put together a group of four young people aged between sixteen and twenty five to discuss the stigma surrounding their generation and to get to the bottom of why over two million of us chose not to turn up on the day of the election.
During my research the majority of information I have encountered would suggest that the younger generation have no interest in the political world whatsoever however not all is as it seems. Although a large percentage wont vote there are still a select amount who will. Mainly choosing to do so because of issues close to their hearts such as housing, employment rates and tuition fees.
One of the key points raised during this debate was the idea that politicians are not relatable for many young people and it is this exact point that stops the younger generation from becoming engaged more with politics. A point proven by the following research.
“Young people don’t believe that any of the main political leaders understand the issues most important to them. When asked “How well do the political leaders understand the issues that are important to you personally?” none received a positive score nationwide”
It then went on to explain,
“Fifty-eight per cent of respondents feel that Prime Minister David Cameron doesn’t understand them well (including 34 per cent who say ‘not at all’), against 17 per cent who say fairly well and 6 per cent very well. This is slightly better than Nick Clegg, for whom 58 per cent say he doesn’t understand their issues well (29 per cent ‘not at all’) against 21 per cent who think he understands them fairly or very well”
These statistics are proof that the younger generation does not feel as if they are part of politics and this is a huge problem. In the run up to the election there were talks of many ways to try and change this with ideas such as the introduction of an app to help persuade young people to vote. Politicians and the media believe that by tapping into our generations love of technology they can engage more of us to get involved.I brought up this idea during the debate I held with a panel of young people aged 16-25 and the opinions varied. A third of the group were adamant that an app would help to engage them as it made voting easier and less time consuming however over two thirds were sure that the introduction of an app would be of no help at all. One member of the panel believed it would come across as a tactical and not genuine decision by politicians.
I interviewed a social media editor from Capital Xtra called Akusia who had the following to say in regard to the introduction of an app,
“I believe that social media is the key to uniting the younger generation and politicians. In the job I do I see how important social media is to young people, they use it everyday. Politicians have already keyed into this by joining the world of twitter and at times bantering back and forth between each other and I believe that creating a voting app is the next logical stage”