When Britain woke up to the results of the EU referendum on 24th June, many young people took to social media to complain about the effect Brexit will have on their futures. And rightly so, as approximately three-quarters of voters aged 18-24 voted to stay in the EU. Many future university students now face the prospect of not having the opportunity to study in Europe through the Erasmus programme, and the job prospects for many already at university are also unclear. However, referendum statistics reveal that only sixty-four percent, less than two-thirds, of people in that age bracket who were eligible to vote did so, despite major campaigns by university student unions to register students in the wake of the referendum.
Although this may not seem like an inadequate turnout, and indeed it was not by previous standards, it stands in stark contrast to the turnout amongst those over 65 years of age, which was ninety percent, and was lower than the overall turnout of seventy-two percent. This is the most recent statistic in a pattern of consistently lower turnout amongst those aged 18-24 as opposed to those in older age brackets.
'Lack of engagement'
Perhaps the most common explanations heard for this is that young people are less engaged with #Politics, or that they don’t know enough about politics to be able to make the right decision. But the ‘right’ decision is non-existent in politics, with decision-making itself highly subjective. And the lack of engagement amongst young people can largely be accounted for by the lack of political #Education present in the British education system.
There are of course opportunities for political study in further education and higher education institutions, but such opportunities are absent in the secondary school system. This means that unless students have previous engagement with politics outside of school, they are unlikely to choose to study it at a higher level. This cannot be left to chance. It is vitally important that future generations are introduced to politics and current affairs at an earlier age, so that when they become eligible to vote at 18, not only will they be more likely to register, they will also have a greater ability to engage actively in political debate, both in and out of election periods.
Ignored by government
The policies of today’s government will arguably have the greatest impact on younger people, who will have to live with the impact of such policies for a much longer period than those in older age brackets. But an apparent apathy amongst young people means that government are unlikely to listen to them. Rising tuition fees and growing difficulty for first-time buyers in the housing market are clear indicators that younger people are not taken seriously by governments, because the latter do not rely on the former during elections.
This is not an attack on those aged 65 and over, the age bracket which consistently vote in greater numbers during elections; they have every right to vote, and do so because they are informed, and feel able to make a decision for themselves. But young people should feel just as encouraged to visit the polling station on election day, and the more they turn out in greater and greater numbers, the more seriously they will be taken by government. And the only way to do this is to introduce political education into the school curriculum. #youngpeople