Meanwhile, voter ID proposals could dissuade marginalised groups furtherby Abi Wilkinson / June 8, 2017 / Leave a comment
This election is all about turnout. Demographics that are more likely to vote Labour have always been statistically less likely to make it to the polls, but this time, that difference is starker than ever. Much more than social class, age is now the primary dividing line. Young people are overwhelmingly likely to support the leftwing party, which also has a sizeable lead amongst 25-to-34-year-olds. Older voters, however, heavily favour the Conservatives; in the last general election, pensioners were roughly twice as likely as 18-to-24s to cast a ballot.
It’s possible things might be different this time. It is estimated that, compared with the 2015 general election, youth turnout was up about 20% in the EU referendum. Looking at what happened in Scotland after the Indy Ref, there’s some reason to believe that may lead to continued engagement over the long term. It’s also fair to say that Labour’s campaign has particularly targeted young people. The manifesto contained eye-catching promises on tuition fees, an increased minimum wage and rental regulations designed to appeal to young voters. Rallies across the country have attracted unprecedented crowds, and Corbyn has widespread support from celebrities with younger audiences, particularly grime artists.
But what if, despite all of this, youth turnout is still underwhelming? No doubt some will argue that people who don’t bother to make it to the polls don’t deserve a say. But before adjustments are made to account for different demographics’ likelihood of voting, many opinion polls have Labour and the Conservatives neck and neck. In this context, it strikes me as anti-democratic to be satisfied with a potential result that totally fails to capture the actual spread of opinion in this country.
There are many reasons why younger people (and other groups with historically lower turnout) might be less likely to actually cast a vote. Disillusionment and a lack of faith that voting will actually change anything is one. Confusion about the voting process and failure to register on time is another—something that’s a particular problem for young people, who are more likely to have to frequently move home. Another is a simple lack of habit.
It’s easy to roll your eyes, but anyone who claims to believe in the…