Young people are increasingly switched on—but recent progress could easily go into reverseby Ian Wybron / September 15, 2017 / Leave a comment
If the hype is to be believed, the May 2017 general election may have ushered in a new era for youth political engagement. With the heat of election night over, excited chatter on social media began to point to a completely unanticipated shift—the young were finding their political feet. Figures from Ipsos Mori show that 54 per cent of all 18-24 year olds turned out to vote—an increase of 16 points on 2015. While it’s important to keep perspective—they are some way off being as engaged as older citizens—the figures have raised a huge of number of questions. Importantly, is this a temporary aberration, or a trend we can expect longer term? And how can we build on the momentum?
Demos’ new research with the British Council published this week may help shed some light. Against the backdrop of Brexit, the Next Generation UK research has explored the attitudes and aspirations of young people in the UK, and is seeking to boost political and social engagement at a time of change. It’s a large study, including a representative survey of 2,000 18-30 year olds conducted by Ipsos Mori, focus groups across the UK, social media analysis, and an Advisory Board of young adults shaping the research and driving the recommendations.
The research, conducted in late 2016 and early 2017, suggests the political appetite amongst young people had been building; and, likely stirred by the EU referendum, was very much there to be unlocked in the—then unanticipated—general election by suitable political forces. One of the biggest surprises of our survey was that as many as three-quarters of young adults in the UK thought it important to be engaged in traditional Westminster politics. So not just an interest in “social issues” or community action, as important as these are to young people—actual engagement with the establishment.
Yet our findings also suggest how precarious youth political engagement may turn out to be. Recent improvements cannot be taken for granted.
“Just 37 per cent of young adults said they believe that British politics reflects the issues that matter to them”
Our research confirmed some longer-term trends that this election is unlikely to have radically shifted and must still be chipped away if there is to be lasting change. First of all, that young people on the whole really don’t…