Young Voters

Time to vote! But who for? And why? And will it count for much? Crowd DNA's Phoebe Checker explores how young people are responding to the election...

In December 2014 a BBC article claimed that there were three million young votes up for party grabs. The outcome of tapping into this demographic, it claimed? Winning the keys to Downing Street.

Since then, young people and politics has been one of many interesting election subplots. A surge of theories around if and how young people will be voting has seen us go from apathetic to averse, disillusioned to distrusting.

Effort has been spent to ensure engagement – from ‘child friendly’ political apps to policies and even parties aimed at young people. Yet, with the election looming, while the principle of democracy remains strong for young people, alliance to parties feels increasingly weak and frustration with the political system high.

Maybe voting was once simpler? When social economic groups were clearer and the political parties reflected this. Policies were differentiated across parties and discussion – where it happened – was limited to a handful of ‘big issues’. Your party was passed down from the previous generation too; family loyalties were strong and alliances often unchanged.

But the young electorate in 2015 have grown through different times. We’ve experienced the most socially liberal era in modern memory; we live in a multi-racial Britain with gender and sexuality choices openly discussed and expect to see this reflected in government that encourages all voices.

We’ve also had access to information like never before and are subject to the greatest consumer choice currently imaginable. Yet, when joining the political conversation, it’s frustrating to see such expectations are not met.

In a recent article in the Guardian, Matt Morely, CEO of Tickbox gets to the heart of this: “In the age of consumer identity, they [young voters] want to know how it [voting] affects them and their family… and that threatens the party-political way of saying, ‘you can’t just be against Trident, and not for or against anything else’.”

Political scandal and economic insecurity brought about (we’re told) by bad decision–making, greed and short-sightedness only further undermine an already faltering faith in the ‘system’ that stunts personal choice and opportunities for smaller parties through a disproportionate voting system. One of our UK Tribes members summed that up for us…

“I spoke to my MP in the street the other day when he was out campaigning and I was not encouraged. He is the embodiment of everything I hate about politics. He’s a safe-seat – Eton-bred – doesn’t-listen-to-the-people – turns-up-late-to-community-events-and-then-leaves-early – goes-to-a-school-and-just-talks-about-his-book – good-for-nothing charlatan. And he is my only representation. How is this democracy? How did my opinion mean anything? I will be voting in this election – not that it matters who I vote for.” Will, 23

Vote Swapping websites are becoming increasingly popular with those wanting to make their vote count – the website pairs people with residents of a constituency where their preferred party has a higher chance of victory. This is a step on from tactical voting, put in place to overcome the problem of wasted votes due to the UK’s first-past-the-post-system.

But the requirement of such a website, begs the question: in a modern, democratic society, why are we having to cheat the political system in order to have our voices heard?

For young people, as pioneers of their own democracy and latecomers to this political conversation it is easy to see why with just one day to go, the decision is still unclear.