In the 2011 election alone, a mere 42% of 18-to-24-year-olds casted a vote, leaving thousands unaccounted for. Once upon a time it was a matter of youth being less likely to vote, but eventually deciding to as they faced the responsibilities of adulthood. However, this has since changed and now it is a matter of youth being less likely to vote and less likely to start voting full-stop.
But what drives youth to not vote? The answer to such a question is easily speculated upon and personally I feel that one of the main reasons for this vacancy is that we aren’t taught enough about politics, but more importantly, the politics of our own country. As a result of this we don’t want to make uninformed decisions, we write-off politics as being unimportant, and we begin to feel as if our votes wouldn’t impact the overall outcome anyway.
Consequently, I believe that politics should be integrated into the secondary school curriculum as a means of counteracting these notions. An effective way of doing so could be to implement compulsory classes and/or talks to senior students in schools, as that is when people become eligible to start voting. Not only could this hopefully increase voter turnout among youth, but it could also mean that students cast their votes based off standpoints that they have formulated themselves, as opposed to mirroring the standpoints taken by and taught to by parents – which is an isolated issue in itself.
However, while responsibility for low voter turnout among youth partly falls on administrations such as schools, it also comes back to the youth themselves. Many of which are lured into a false idea that the political decisions made while they are in their youth are redundant to them both now and in the future. Obviously this is untrue as we are no less classified as citizens than our older counterparts and in the long run some of these decisions may well impact us more than them.
Brexit serves to be a primary example of this, as a mere 36% of 18-to-24-year-olds casted a vote – with well over half of which voting to stay in the EU. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that this statistic is somewhat reflective of the stance of young people in general, regardless of whether or not they voted.
Conversely, not only was there a higher voter turnout for older generations, but there was also a higher portion in favor of leaving the EU. However, it goes without saying that the verdict has a far greater impact on younger generations as they are forced to face the aftermath for a longer period of time. Subsequently, had there been a greater turn out of young voters then there could well have been a different, and more accurate, verdict in general.
In my opinion, to not vote essentially disables one from complaining about their political system, after having made no attempt to change it. After all, such a discrepant voter turnout among young people arguably means that the political elites are less likely to make proposals that benefit us, as they are more focused on gaining the support of age groups that will cast a vote in their favor, as opposed to those that won’t vote at all. Therefore, I hope that this piece, despite being brief, outlines the importance of young people becoming politically active and voicing their opinions.
Author: Harry Reid
Hi – my name is Harry Reid. I’m eighteen years old, and I’m originally from Greytown in the Wairarapa – which is approximately an hour out of Wellington. I’m the youngest of three children, with a twenty-year old brother and a twenty-two-year old sister. After finishing Wellington High last year I’m now in my first year at the University of Otago, doing a double degree in Law and Arts, with my Arts Major either being Communications or Politics – and whichever one I decide against will become my Minor. Some of my interests outside of University include photography, socializing with friends and keeping up with current affairs– among other things. Over the coming weeks I’m going to share with you some of my experiences (both good and bad) in my weekly blog. Feel free to follow my Instagram @harrrryreid for a more personalized view of what I’m up to!