Saturday, 6 May 2017

youth and politics - where do we stand?

Youth and politics. An imminent general election on June the 8th has led to the realisation that young people don’t vote. Or, at least, the vast majority of them seem to be allergic to the ballot box. For example, turnout amongst young voters (18-24) in the 2014 European elections was a scant 28%. Contrast that with turnout among people aged 55+, over half of whom (51%) cast their ballots in 2014, and it’s clear that youth participation in European elections is not great. As a young person who is, you could say, interested in politics yet cannot vote I wanted to know what young people my age think about politics. Is there enough information available and is there anything that can be done to improve how politically aware the youth are? Should the 16-17 age group be allowed to vote?

Youth are often neglected in the political process. But mobilizing youth can have dramatic political impacts. One of the biggest barriers that prevent youth from participating within politics is a lack of education. Political engagement in the curriculum just doesn’t make it. I’ve witnessed it myself, people disengaging with any information shared to them about politics. We’re teenagers, we can’t vote so why are we being told this? In a few years we will be able to vote but that doesn’t stop young people having an impact now.

In classes around the country basic knowledge on how the government in the UK works simply isn’t taught to those and could be the reason why there is a lack of voters aged between 18-24. The information that young people have gained about politics is due to social media or information found online, thrust into a world of politics without a general direction on where to look and who to ask. I asked a few young people about their views and experience with politics to gain a wider view on where young people stand in politics and as a result… what can be done about it?

As a teenager, do you have an interest in politics despite not being able to vote? Is there anything you feel young people can do to be politically active?


Tolly told me that her interest in politics is; ' it's mainly down to social media and how keeping up to speed is so accessible and how the information is so readily available.' Highlighting that it is social media over schools etc. is giving people access to the wider knowledge of politics. 

Dalal, who is currently studying for her AS levels mentioned that; 'Honestly, yes. Many people tend to think that the youth being involved in politics is so trivial and unserious because of the impression that we're 'immature' or don't know enough. As a result of this, it's clear that lots of other individuals around our age feel skeptical about voicing their interest in political matters because of the fear of being ridiculed.'

Alice, 15 says that; ‘Despite not being able to vote I have a huge interest in politics as I believe it is so important to understand democracy and to be socially aware of the things that are going on around us. I started my interest in politics by getting involved in the debate club at my school and I have been engrossed in it ever since.’

Bervin, who is currently studying a-level politics says; ‘To increase involvement in politics, young people can sign online petitions, join a party, join protests or even just watch the news or read the newspaper!’

Alice also mentioned;  ‘the biggest and easiest thing for young people to do it to simply talk about it. Voice your opinions to your friends, family or anyone because the more involved people are, the more interesting and excited politics will be.’

Probably the most important thing you can do if you want to be involved in politics is to be aware; especially if you are eligible to vote. Read newspapers, watch the news, understand both sides of the debates, and talk with others. If you aren’t exactly sure what’s going on, it’s hard to form an opinion, so make sure you know the whole story.

Contact your local MP with your concerns – not just once, but as many times as you can. Ask them what they are going to do. Even if you are not in the UK you can still WriteToThem. I mentioned in my post on how to take action a podcast called Parliament explained; a six part podcast discussing the ins and outs of the government and laws - it's well worth a listen if you feel your knowledge in politics is lacking. There is also a UK youth parliament for young people to share their opinion and ideas for a better future.


If 16-17 years olds were allowed the vote - would you? If not what is stopping you?

Megan highlighted that; 'I think 17 and 18 year olds should be allowed to vote however I think 16 is quite young as they're still in high school and some may not understand it properly and vote for the sake of voting. However, I think 16 year olds should be given the choice as long as the vote is not wasted. As I've said, I am actually a bit torn on the whole subject for both reasons so I can't give a 'yes or no' answer.' Maybe if young people were educated about politics in secondary school this would be a different answer, yet again it is seemingly up to the individual to find out about politics for themselves. 

Tolly quite rightly mentioned that also believe that with the number of people who don't register to vote, it wouldn't necessarily mean that all 16-year-olds would go out and do so. It just gives us the opportunity to step up and go; I want to be a part of this.’

Esme said that if she could, she would definitely vote when she turned 16. 'I think it's your duty to vote if you can, seeing as we are able to, living in a democratic country. I'm 14, and it can definitely feel frustrating when you feel as if your future is out of your hands. However, I know some people my age aren't particularly interested in politics. I think that they should add lessons in politics to the national syllabus, so that if the voting age is lowered people completely  understand the implications of their vote.' Both her and Tolly said if that young people can join the army, marry and pay taxes at 16 then having the vote at 16 is not a huge implication, if the vote was given to 16 and 17 year olds then maybe they would be more inclined to know more about it. 


Do you feel enough is being done to engage young people in politics?

The general consensus for this question was that no, not enough is being done to engage young people in politics. Whilst it is great that the people I’ve spoken to feel so passionately about politics it may not be an accurate reflection on young people around the country. It is up to ourselves to research and educate ourselves on political issues and although I am aware you can’t expect to sit around waiting for somebody to school you, not enough is being done to make that initial step to say - ‘hey! Politics is actually really cool and you may not realise it now but it will affect your future’.

Bervin, There should be much more interaction with the youth via social media, visits to schools etc!’

Even if you don't have a direct interest in politics, Esme quite rightly pointed out that 'It's going to affect your future no matter what, so having a conversation about it is always going to be beneficial.' And that politics is definitely something that should be discussed more in schools. 

However, both Dalal and Tolly did highlight about teenagers staying 'woke'. Tolly mentioned; 'I think enough is being done that younger generations are staying "woke" (although I hate that word) but perhaps not enough is being done to actually create active, younger citizens? We need to know how we can directly impact what is happening more than just know who to follow or what kind of hashtags to support.’ Even though young people may be aware of political events they are not taking an active part in it and at an age where youth can be easily influenced on political issues, young people have the power to influence others to. Generation Z are intrinsically attached to their phones and social media - so why not use it for the power of good?




Has social media and influencers influenced or changed your political views/knowledge and in what way?

It was bought to my attention by Megan that: 'No actually, I think a lot of media influencers which I follow which post about beauty, lifestyle and fashion are almost a bit scared to because of the hate that comes with it and being targetted for their opinions so my view has not been influenced.'

Being aware of what is fact and what is opinion doesn't just apply to politics as well, as Alice said; 'Don't rely on information that you aren't sure is accurate to form your opinion and that can be said for anything - not just politics.'

Dalal mentioned that 'From what I've seen/follow, a lot of twitter users are extreme left party believers which I think can impact a lot of individuals political views because they feel as if they should share the same beliefs as them.' I too am incredibly aware of people online only talking about how everyone should vote for the left wing parties and I think that can influence people a lot, especially if they are on the fence about who to vote for. If you are eligible to vote, make sure you research on the parties websites rather than just what you see on Twitter. 

The internet can be a great place though as Esme pointed out: 'Social media has definitely opened me to different political views etc. for example, I learnt all about feminism and feminist theory from social media and the internet!!! Rookie Magazine is a great place for young people to talk politics (and a million other interesting things) and inform each other.'

Social media is a great way to participate in politics. You can express your opinions, read other people’s ideas, and follow political accounts. People today are highly involved with social media, so anything you share online could resonate with another person and make him or her see other sides to debatable topics.

It’s okay to have gaps in your knowledge – we all do – so don’t beat yourself up if you feel that is you. The trick is recognising your lack of knowledge; it can be painful and humbling to do so. But, if you can do that, and find ways to learn, grow, and educate yourself, we’re going to get through this. Discussion is welcome, as is research.


I also asked a first time voter, Lexie, her opinion on first time voting: 'I've been lucky enough to have parents who are very politically informed, and their non-bias influence has allowed me to make my own decisions on who to vote for. However, I do feel that not enough has been done in my school to teach us about the way our government works. I think it's so important that we know what the makeup of our society is, but the education system doesn't focus on this as a priority (unless you're taking a subject heavy in politics) and I've only had one lesson on politics in 9 years of secondary education. I think a lot more needs to be done to educate young people on what's going on, so that people don't feel left out of important decisions.'

If you’re reading this post with no interest in politics, that’s fine - you don’t have to know everything about how the government works to have a vote. Boning up on policies on a party and knowing the information and how it will affect the future of the country is enough to be able to vote in the general election. Even if you are not ‘into’ politics, politics will affect you and it is important to have a say in it.

Remember if you’re eligible to vote, you need to register to vote before the election and read up on the parties. Make yourself aware of their promises, their ideas and what they're telling you they'll offer.  

Huge thank you to the people I’ve interviewed for this post: Bervin, Tolly, Alice, Lexie, Dalal, Megan and Esme. What do you think about youth and politics? Where do we stand and what can be done about it?


eleanor //
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11 comments

  1. Such an amazing post, highlighting and raising awareness for young people and politics! I really do think that we should be educated on politics, and political issues in school then I think that 16-17 year olds should have the right to vote. I mean, as of now I don't think its something that should happen, purely because the overall majority just aren't educated enough to make an informed decision. I mean, a lot of 18-24 year olds aren't either, but I really do think thats down to the education system and not being taught enough!

    Lucy | Forever September

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    1. Thank you Lucy! Even if young people aren't eligible to vote I still think it should be taught in schools as it'll inevitably impact them in later life. I'm glad you liked the post!

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  2. Brilliant post! Personally from my experience, I would say the majority of 16 year olds aren't fully mature enough to vote at that age. During college/sixth form (17 & 18) you do a lot of growing up and gain more confidence which gets you ready to vote at the age of 18. I felt ready to vote after I'd finished sixth form. Therefore I think 18 is the perfect age to start voting. But it's great to have an opinion and start doing research at 16.

    Hannah | alongsidehannah.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. Hi Hannah! Thank you so much for the lovely comment, it's a very valid point you make and as someone writing this who is 16 I can understand where you are coming from as I have yet to go to sixth form myself. It'll be interesting to see the changes!

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  3. This is a really interesting post and it highlights a complete lack of education on politics in schools. I know I definitely didn't have any education at all about politics while I was in school. I think school is a really important time to encourage people to think about what kind of country they want to live in and also to understand that the media, while informative, have hidden agendas and to question what they're told rather than just trust it.

    My sister, despite my efforts, tends to believe whatever the Daily Fail or the Sun say. She voted leave in the Brexit campaign because she was convinced it was a fix and we wouldn't leave anyway...she's far from the only person I knew who did that as well, because she felt so disillusioned. That's a huge problem in itself for everyone, but especially young people who can feel like there's no point voting or protest vote.

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    1. Thank you so much, it's been really interesting to hear people's response to this post - especially those who aren't around the age of 16. It is evident to me that even adults feel they had a lack of information when they were young and that has resulted in misleading information perhaps swaying them with the vote x

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  4. This is such an interesting post, it's wonderful to see young people engaging with politics and talking about reasons why younger voters are so underrepresented! It has been so heartening to see that recently, there has been a surge in youngsters registering to vote, I really hope at the upcoming general election, younger voices will be heard! Thanks for writing this post, it's incredibly valuable!

    Abbey 😘 www.abbeylouisarose.co.uk

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  5. This was a great post! It is so important for young people to be involved with politics because it directly impacts them!

    S .x http://ramblingsofayoungprgirl.blogspot.com/

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  6. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR POSTING THIS! Youth and Politics is a topic very very close to my heart! I am an aspiring political journalist and although I cannot vote I am doing everything I can to educate myself, educate others and get a conversation going. My blog https://bookfulblog.wordpress.com/ has a variety of posts all about politics and has a whole blog dedicated on how young people can get involved in the upcoming general election https://bookfulblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/30/the-least-we-can-do-is-vote/ Once again thank you for posting this blog and it is such a comfort knowing there re other young people out there who care!

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  7. This is such a good post!! I definitely think more is needed to get younger people more knowledgeable on politics and encourage them to be interested in the topic, it's so important and I can't believe it's not taught in schools, it's much more useful than some other subjects! Abi | ramblingsofablonde.co.uk

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  8. Loved this post! It's such a shame that a majority of young people (my age) don't seem to care about politics. I can understand that not everyone wants to make a carrer in politics, understand 100% of what's going on or don't really find a party that suits they thoughts, but not voting is something I don't understand... People have fought so hard to allow us to vote, so I find it insulting not to. I agree on the fact that education has a lot to do with the way people vote, and that a lot of politicians use ignorance to get their way, so I think young people, even before they are allowed to vote, should have some sort of course where they can debate or ask questions about what is going on. However I don't think giving 16-17 year-olds the right to vote is something good. I think that before the the time you leave home to of to uni you are still influenced by your parent's thoughts, it's everyone's case but a lot of children/young people think like their parents because that's the opinion they were brought up with.

    -K

    www.corinneandkirsty.com

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