We’ve heard it all before – the youth of today are more interested in selfies than politics or more engaged in social media than social awareness. In the past, the poor turnout of young people at the polls resulted in endless complaints and debates over millennials’ ‘lack of interest’ or ‘apathy’ towards politics, but change is here.
According to the voter registration figures in the UK, more than 3 million people registered to vote by the end of 2019. An impressive two-thirds of those who registered were under 35. Why?
Because more young people are interested in decisions that affect their lives. This means that students are not indifferent to politics, they just don’t participate in traditional politics where they feel like their voice is not heard.
Young People are Taking Action
Research shows that young people are more likely to contribute their time and actions to causes they believe in, instead of money. They are more likely to volunteer or sign a petition than their older counterparts.
A survey of young British adults in the 16-24 year age range showed the following:
- 20% have volunteered for a charity in the past year.
- 53% have signed an online petition.
- 51% of young volunteers are students.
On a similar note, more 18 to 24-year-olds have strong opinions about social change:
- 45% support peaceful protests (such as Extinction Rebellion’s “shut down London”).
- 54% believe that protest marches achieve their purpose more often than not.
The top political issues concerning young UK adults (aged 18-24) are:
- Living costs
- Affordable housing
- Unemployment rates
- The future of NHS
- The gap between rich and poor
- University tuition fees
- The state of UK public finances
- Care for the elderly
- Crime and antisocial behaviour
- Welfare and benefits
Politicians Need to Sit Up and Take Notice
Anyone who thinks that young voters can’t influence politicians is massively mistaken.
Hansard’s 2019 Audit of Political Engagement found that 47% of 18-24-year-olds are certain to vote, compared to just 39% in 2016. This could suggest that the time has come for politicians to sit up and take notice of young adults finally.
The Youth Vote?
In the 2017 general election, over 60% of young voters (aged 18-29) backed Labour, while 69% of older people were voting Conservative. More recent data shows that Labour still has the edge when it comes to supporters in this age bracket. Interestingly, 60% of women under 30 are likely to vote for Labour, compared to 44% of men under 30.
There has been some notable movement in the youth vote between 2017 and now. The Conservatives have lost 14% of their 2017 voters aged 18-29 to the Lib Dems, and another 6% to Labour.
Change Can Start at Uni
The best way to learn about politics and the stuff that affects your future is to get involved. While it is relatively easy to go through uni completely oblivious to politics, the truth is that the decisions made by the country’s politicians will directly affect students who are trying to make a living after graduating.
The Which? University Student Survey 2019 listed the University of Cambridge, University of Oxford and University of Sussex as some of the top unis for an active political scene, as well as Goldsmiths and the London School of Economics at the University of London.
Uni is actually a great place to start speaking up for what you believe in, with student unions and public debates being the perfect platform to get involved and have your opinions heard. What’s more, with Fresh Student Living accommodation, you are never too far from where these types of events are taking place, making it easy and convenient to get involved. Students don’t have to be aspiring politicians to get involved either, and you could leave having learnt a lot.