The Kids Are Alright: though it’s a shame they don’t vote

It’s that time again – time to produce another assessed radio package.

This one is about politics, which sounds rather vague and broad (and horrid).. but fortunately it just so happens that I, and everyone else that chose the proposition laid before you, have had the delightful option of producing a package which concentrates on why younger people aren’t voting and what can be done about it, which actually, I find quite interesting.

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Politics and public trust

The British are proud of their democratic tradition. So why are they reluctant to turn out and vote in elections – European, Parliamentary and local? Assess what could be done to encourage greater participation in the democratic process.

Here are the facts:

Only 44% of 18-24 year olds voted in the last general election and looking at the table you can see the percentage of voters goes up as the age bracket get older. So why is this? Is it simply that people don’t gain an interest in politics until it directly affects them? Until they start buying homes, earning more, starting families and paying bills? Is the margin so high for 55 and overs because that’s when your free public transport kicks in, when the NHS becomes a life-line and when your pension looms? It would seem so.

However this doesn’t mean that young people should be less inclined to vote or that their input is any less important. They are the future after all – isn’t that what our elders tell us? Speaking to Liberal Democrat MP Steve Gilbert I discovered that getting more young people to vote is something that political parties do take seriously – however it seems to me that in order for people to vote they need to become more politically active or at least aware – which is the crux of the problem.

This is what I discovered after speaking with History and Politics lecturer John More on Wednesday. Gilbert was very enthusiastic about modernising the voting system which he emphasised is stuck in the ‘eighteenth century.’ However I query whether making e-voting possible is not so simple a solution; not that I don’t think it wouldn’t be plausible, but that I don’t believe it is that easy. You still need to spark young people’s interest in order for them to know which party to even vote for.

Mr. More said something incredibly eye-opening yet seemingly obvious to me on Wednesday; that the students that regularly read the paper (“the good paper, not the Daily Mail or shit like that“) and watch the news are always the ones that get better marks.

Having a political opinion is entirely about being well-informed.

The more you learn about how the government’s running the country the more involved and often indignant you become. Look at the student protests over tuition fees. However it’s that classic case of what you don’t know can’t hurt you, and unlike older people who have more responsibilities and can’t escape the need to find how their hard-earned money’s being spent, the younger generation don’t seem to feel the obligation. I wonder whether the percentage of 18-24 year old voters has dropped over the past 70 years as our lifestyles have altered? Us young folk now live at home for longer, get proper jobs when we’re older, don’t marry as young and have children a lot later in life. Things have changed.

Yet young people are smarter now than they’ve ever been. I’ll never forget my mother always looking at my Maths homework and saying she would never have been able to solve those kinds of equations when she was my age, or even be expected to. Young people have the brains to make well-informed choices but lack the information to do so.

So how are political parties going to tackle this?

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