Are young people giving up on democracy?

Tim Wigmore has a good piece on the fall in turnout amongst young people in Britain in the Daily Telegraph – but in the end, I draw the opposite conclusion from his data from him.

First, his case:

It’s always fashionable to belittle the youth of today and imagine that they are worse than previous generations. The facts mostly tell a different story: today’s young are less inclined to use drugs and get drunk than previous generations, and under-18 pregnancy is now at its lowest level since 1969. But it’s no myth that young people have never been less inclined to partake in party politics. In 2010, over 65s were 23 per cent more likely to vote in the general election than under 25s. This “generation gap” didn’t exist in 1964; as recently as 1992, it was only 12 per cent.

The point about how high turnout has remained amongst older people is one I’ve made before, and Tim Wigmore nicely illustrates it with a graph:

The generation gap in turnout

However, whilst Tim overall paints a fairly pessimistic picture and suggests some radical measures, for me the tail end of the graph is fairly optimistic. It took only one general election to close roughly half of the generation gap that had opened up. There may be some good reasons to think 2015 won’t be as good as 2010 at closing the gap, but fundamentally, we’re just one repeat election away from the gap closing. That’s a promising position to be in.

One response to “Are young people giving up on democracy?”

  1. Democratic Audit published a new report arguing that younger voters need much better sources of information about elections online: http://www.democraticaudit.com/?page_id=3496. 

    We need to get the basics right when it comes to organising elections, but we’re not doing that at the moment. Some would argue this isn’t a factor in the falling turnout stats because information has always been as patchy as it is now – but that’s misleading for 3 reasons
    1. Parties used to be a key vehicle for informing voters – they still do that, but voters are less prepared to listen.
    2. Similarly, local media outlets have declined
    3. Young people now want and expect information to be accessible online, but the way we do it is confusing and silo-based.

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