With the “once in a generation” generational change that people have been referring to, politics is facing the greatest period of change since the end of World War II. In the current political climate, voters are looking for parties and politicians who have fresh ideas and policies that will address the challenges they face today.
With an increasing number of young people feeling disengaged from politics, political parties must continue to develop strategies to connect with younger voters. With disengagement from politics at an all-time high among young people, what are the factors contributing to this? And how can political parties continue to engage this demographic?
What do young people think of politics?
While all demographics are likely to feel disengaged at some point, disengagement among young people is particularly worrying. This is partly because the future lies ahead of us: if we don’t engage with politics now, not only will we miss out on opportunities to shape the future but we will also have a reduced say when decisions have to be made about things like the environment, the economy and health.
So what do young people think about politics? According to research by the UK’s National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), 17 percent of 18 to 30-year-olds say that politics does not influence their day-to-day lives at all, compared with just 5 percent of the over-60s.
The same research found that only 15 percent of young people are confident that most politicians have good intentions when they enter parliament, compared with 59 percent of the over-60s who say the same.
Young people are cynical of politics.
Young people are also increasingly cynical about politics. According to the British Future survey, one in five 18- to 24-year-olds say they have a low level of trust in politicians and banks, compared with one in three over-65s. And the same survey shows that one in five young people say they have a ‘very low trust in the media, compared with one in eight over-65s.
Young people are concerned about the environment.
Young people are also more likely to be environmentally concerned than older generations. According to research from the National Trust, nearly nine in ten 18- to 24-year-olds say they are concerned about climate change, compared with fewer than half of those aged over 65.
Young people are conflicted about Brexit.
Many young people struggle with the decision to leave the EU. While the majority support Brexit, a recent survey from the National Centre for Youth Discussions (NCYD) found that nearly one in five 18- to 29-year-olds would change their mind and vote to remain if they could.
This ambivalence towards Brexit is also evident in other surveys. A study by the Institute of Social and Economic Research found that while young people were more likely to support remaining in the EU, this was driven more by a desire to ‘stick it to racists’ than an assessment of the merits of EU membership.
Young people don’t feel represented by politicians.
A common complaint among young people is that politicians do not represent them. This is particularly true among young people who do not vote, a group that is growing in size. Young non-voters are more likely to feel socially excluded, with a growing body of research finding that this group faces a host of challenges such as unemployment and poverty.