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Disconnected Democracy: Exploring The Reasons Behind Youth Voter Disengagement

Maleeha Iqbal investigates why fewer and fewer young people are voting and where the disconnect and lack of engagement in politics stem from.

 

With the upcoming general election taking the United Kingdom by storm, what can we expect from the youth in local communities will they come in more numbers, how are people educating themselves about the premises of a general election and what can local government and national politics be doing to encourage and represent Generation Z.

 

Kelly De Jesus, a youth-based local politician, shares her insights and continues to destigmatize the label 'young people are not interested in politics.'

 

“I believe people have a hard time trusting politicians as they aren't always transparent. We find that politicians will repeatedly tell you what you want to hear and don't follow through with it or it’s done poorly. So it makes it difficult to trust somebody in a position of power, as well as that people didn't seem to see how whatever information they're being fed so as somebody who's never tapped into politics, who has never explored politics you're thinking if I go for this party for this representative or if I stand for this cause how is that relevant to me and how is it going to impact where I live in and the people I interact with.”

 

A 2022 report by the UK parliament said ‘60% of 18-25 year olds think politicians don’t care’. Only 54% of young people aged 18-24 turned out to vote in the 2019 election, the lowest of any age group. The British Youth Council found in 2023 that 71% of young people don’t feel that political parties speak directly to young people in the lead-up to elections.

 

“The first barrier is representation; young people don't see themselves in these spaces. As somebody who's fairly involved as somebody who likes to be proactive and put myself out there, even I have a hard time getting into conversations getting into meetings, and events because a lot of the time things are happening on a political level on a political scale these things are not advertised to young people in the first place. There's that ongoing stigma, that ongoing assumption that young people are not going to want to be involved and that in itself is a barrier. So I would say first of all young people don't see themselves in these faces. That's a combination of "well we're not told about these things" and the combination of "why should I bother when I'm not accepted in that space.”

 

Not being able to feel seen or heard in the political world causes young people to feel as if their vote would not make a difference, and history will repeat itself with yet another politician not sticking by their word but how can we strive to change these narratives?

 

“It’s a valid concern because the point of voting a lot of the time is that you want to change so I sympathise with them but I also say that not voting is a vote. When you don't vote you've decided that whatever happens in the future, you don't get to say why is this going on, why is that way because you didn't vote so a lot of the time young people have no choice but to vote for the least worst in your opinion. There's so much we can take away from the vote, a vote is 80% of who gets in power that is the point of the vote but the other 20% is about you exercising the right and so when people say I don’t want to vote. If someone were to say let's revoke the vote then people would argue by stating they have a right to vote but the statistics prove that fewer people are voting. 80% of the vote is about who gets in power 20% of the vote is understanding your privilege to be able to vote.”

 

“You could find out what a general election is from the government website, but bear in mind that the government website is not written for young people. So I would recommend looking at these organisations first of all and then Youth Parliament which writes for young people with young people in mind so I'd say youth parliament.gov.uk. It should always be on your conscience that if you don’t wake up that morning and vote you are fulfilling the need to revoke the vote.”

 

Serena Davis an art student, studying at Peterborough College will be voting for the first time at the general election even though she feels slightly apprehensive and a stranger to politics.

 

“Young people are engaging with each other about which manifesto is best suited to them so there are conversations around who to vote for but we don't feel seen or not appreciated in the political world.”

 

“I am voting for the first time and the reason for that is my parents have always voted so seeing how they view voting as a privilege and something I should do. I don't necessarily know everything that is going on in the political world, but I have a sense of responsibility to vote.”

 

Politicians need to address these issues and find ways to engage and empower young people in the political process, encouraging political education, improving accessibility to voting, and promoting the importance of youth representation can help increase young people's participation in elections.

  

Youth Parliament: https://nya.org.uk/ukyp/ 

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