The youth vote: the powerful voice that needs to be heard

Written by Total Politics has a free weekly Friday email bulletin. Follow this link to register. on 9 May 2014 in Diary
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In a year's time, polling stations will open across the nation for the General Election, with 6.8m young Britons eligible to vote. With 194 marginal constituencies (those with majorities of 10% or less) that can be won by an opposing party with just a 5% swing, the youth vote could be the deciding factor in which party makes it into power on May 7th 2015.

But, despite this, recent research from the Hansard Society has shown that only 12% of under 25 year olds are intending to vote, meaning that a shocking 88% of the country’s youth will have no say in the future of the country.

If young people don’t vote they will not get any policies made with them in mind. It is a simple fact that the older generation vote and that is why they receive election subsidies and young people are dealt a heavy hand – rise in tuition fees, etc.

The answer? Use the language that they understand and make them believe there are truly policies that will make their life better in the next Parliament.

Research released by youth charity vInspired’s Swing The Vote campaign seems to have hit the nail on the head. They surveyed 3,000 young people and found that the election is set to be won or lost on social media; with young voters calling upon parties to adopt new techniques to woo them to the ballot box.

Two in three (64%) admitted that politics would be ‘easier to digest and understand’ if delivered on Twitter and 69% stated that a politician could win their vote if they were to embrace social media to communicate their principles and promises. This should be like a red rag to bull for the major parties and Ed Miliband has already made the youth vote a key element of his pre-election gambits by offering 16 and 17 year olds a vote, should he be elected.

Liberal Democrats, Labour and the Green Party have all pledged to follow the vInspired lead and will deliver five election promises for young people on Twitter, as part of their manifestos; so groundwork has been made. Although you do worry that the Conservatives haven't signed up. Do they not plan to do five things for young people?  Surely every party should be making sure the so-called Lost Generation isn’t a generation devoid of hope?

The Swing The Vote campaign is doing everything right by trying to empower young people to make their voices heard and take part in the political process. By calling on politicians to ensure politics is relevant, young people can finally be encouraged to have a say in the nation's future and halt this downward spiral of non voting.

The call for parties to adopt a more ‘online’ style of politics follows the approach adopted by Barack Obama. It is this, which has seen Obama, a keen social media user, followed by one in five (20%) of the nation’s youth, with David Cameron (13%), Ed Miliband (8%), Nick Clegg (6%) and Nigel Farage (5.4%) trailing behind.

Despite the slightly cringe nature of the selfie-loving Obama, he ticks all the right boxes and doesn't make the gaffes of Cameron on the phone, Ed Balls’ Ed Balls tweet and numerous other Twitter fails from politicians.

Now is the time for the party leaders to embrace a new way of campaigning and here’s hoping that vInspired’s campaign will have the positive affect that required. With Stephen Fry, Paloma Faith, Pixie Lott, John Newman and other celebs supporting, there is a chance it might just work!

The campaign prompted singer Paloma Faith to say:

“I always vote. A lot of people tell me that they don’t vote because they don’t feel there is anyone worth voting for, but that means that everyone who does vote has their voice heard. Young people need to be heard and Swing The Vote is helping make that happen.”

The next phase of the Swing The Vote campaign, announced today, sees BBC Free Speech presenter Rick Edwards direct a people-powered short film that will put issues that matter to Britain’s youth in front of politicians.

By uploading an Instagram video using #SwingTheVote and starting with, ‘I would vote if...” young would-be voters can not only star in the film, but also ensure the issues they care about – no matter how big or small – are heard. The videos will be collated into a short film that will be presented to the leading political parties and used to campaign for better representation of young people in politics.

Will it all work? Only time will tell, but young people need to avoid the Russell Brand revolution and look to ensure politics evolves and supports their needs. The last election was famously won from wooing the mum vote, lets hope 2015 is the election won by leaders going hell for leather trying to get the youngsters on side – just no rapping like those Belgian MEPs please.

Tags: Youth vote

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