(Political) Power to the Youth

Last night's Under 30s TV debate proved that Britain’s youth are more politically pumped than ever before, so we spent the afternoon with a group of first-time voters to get their take on the 2019 General Election.

Ah, The Youth Vote: a frequent point of contention in the United Kingdom, where the Tories hate it and the Liberals love it.

For the 2019 General Election, there’s been more emphasis on the youth vote than ever before, with our lead political parties finally paying attention to first-time voters and recognising that they alone have the power to swing the vote. Social Media, memes and even Stormzy have been utilised to tap into a younger demographic – and it seems to have worked. There were a record 659,666 new registrations to vote on deadline day this year; a telltale sign that first-time voters are ready to have their say.

We spent the afternoon with a group of young people – some of whom don’t even have the right to vote yet, as well as those that are voting for the first time – to discuss their take on the election…

TJ, 17

“Despite my personal desire to have a say in the way that things are run in the country, I actually don’t believe that it would be beneficial, on the whole, to lower the voting age from 18. I think that, especially in this day and age, the widespread circulation of misinformation and fake news is genuinely concerning, and, with technology ever-evolving, it has never been easier to influence young people by the means of Instagram adverts and hoax articles, and this is exactly what’s happening. Instagram is filled with biased and false information, a lot of which is being spread and reposted unknowingly by influential people to be viewed by their large, young following. This ignorance is altering the views of thousands of uninformed youths.  I personally feel well enough informed to make a meaningful vote, however, as someone who has always been interested in politics, this information has come through extensive research as well as a prior understanding of political affairs through school and parents. If I were prime minister (watch out 2026, soon land), I would make politics a compulsory co-curricular class in secondary school, so that Britain’s youth can begin to at least understand the basics of politics in an environment unaffected by misinformation.

These days, I still meet 20-year-olds who don’t have a clue about the political situation in this country, and I see this as a key reason for such low voter turn-outs in recent years. People need to be more informed of what’s actually going on, rather than being kept in the dark by whoever is in number 10. This will ease the tension in our current society and will hopefully allow Britain to flourish again. I also look forward to enjoying my free broadband if Labour win!”

Clementine, 18

“I think it’s important for young people to be engaged. They are the ones who will have to deal with issues we’re facing such as climate change, so it’s crucial that we remain educated. I read the news and try to keep up with the debates but it’s so easy for politicians to target people using their rhetoric and make false promises. Also, micro-targeting on social media makes it easier for people to be misinformed, so it’s important to factor that in.

So I think it’s important to take what the candidates say with a pinch of salt and keep in mind that these people share the same goal: becoming Prime Minister. In the future, I’m hoping to see more investment in the welfare state. Issues like homelessness are visible proof that the welfare state is underfunded. I hope that a greater commitment to education and investment in community support can help prevent the growing knife crime and gang violence we’re seeing.”

Tobi, 19

“In January, my mother was cleared of breast cancer, something she still says would not have been possible without the NHS. I believe the NHS is a service many of us take for granted and I feel it’s vital to use our vote to help ensure its longevity. This election will ultimately decide our futures and the opportunities that will be available to us when we’re older. After the 2016 referendum, I feel it was upsetting to see older generations decide our future. I feel that getting involved in politics can be very intimidating but I think social media has made it a lot easier to digest, providing different views and opinions in a more friendly environment. I would like to see a larger focus on climate control nationwide to ensure more sustainable practices are made part of legislation, preventing the further destruction of our environment.

After the election, I hope for the NHS to be made a priority, where it can be rebuilt and improved to ensure high-quality care, no matter of income, ethnicity or religion. The sole aim of the NHS is to help aid our community and I feel it’s important to ensure this through keeping it a priority. It is potentially our last opportunity to save the NHS. Without the NHS, I may not have a mother.”

Joana, 20

“I’m excited to vote and finally have my say after not being old enough to vote in the 2016 Brexit Referendum. I think we’re lucky to live in a country where we have the right to vote so everyone who can, should! I’m confident in who I’m voting for and know that I’m contributing to making a change. The results will affect us for the longest and this is the government that we’ll be growing up with. For young people who aren’t as interested in politics or don’t really understand, social media can play a huge part as there are many guides that break down each political party’s manifestos, putting everything into simpler terms. It doesn’t take long to research and it’s so important that people actually understand who they’re voting for.”

Oscar, 20

“Regardless of the result, the election will hopefully end the mess and confusion we have experienced over the last 3 years. However, I am conflicted, since I don’t particularly trust any of the party leaders. It is important that the younger generation go out and vote! If we don’t make a decision, the decision will be made for us. I’ve l watched some of the election debates and I’ve looked at some of the main points in the parties manifestos. I’ve also seen articles containing quotes from certain party leaders which has also had an influence on my decision.

As for the outcome, I just hope the government will stop arguing over Brexit negotiations and look to the more pressing problems within our country such as housing, education and funding of the NHS.”

Sarah, 20

“At 20, this will be my first time voting. I was 16 and couldn’t vote during the 2016 referendum, but I felt this same pressure around politics then as I do now. I think that it’s good to educate young people early so it brings out their interest in politics and makes them feel more involved and that they have a voice. I feel like we need more education about politics within schools because from my personal experience, it wasn’t pushed. This left me with a lack of knowledge of how things work. It’ll be interesting to see how we change socially.”

Theo, 18

“I am really excited to finally be able to voice my opinion politically, especially in a time when there is so much political debate going on, not only in the UK but on a global scale. At the end of the day, it is our future! At the moment there is so much debate on matters that are so important to our lives, that can really affect us in the long-run. As I have recently just finished an A-Level in Politics, I feel I am engaged enough to have a say in this General Election. However, I would say that if I had not learnt about it at school, I don’t think I would know enough to make a meaningful decision. I do feel like Social Media can inform a lot of young people on politics. But, I also think there should be more done to inform the youth on political matters as before I studied it at school, I had no interest in politics whatsoever and wouldn’t have paid attention to this General Election.

Regardless of the outcome of the election, my hope is that something is done to help resolve knife crime across the country. The numbers speak for themselves, and anyone who is given electoral power needs to do something to minimise the amount of violence amongst the youth.”

Luke, 17

“I think it’s very important for people below the age of 18 to have the right to vote because most of the people voting won’t be alive to see the consequences. This was the case with the Brexit vote. The youth vote would have changed the whole outcome and this could be the case with the upcoming General Election. The problem with how the parties distribute their views and information is that it’s not on platforms that under 18s use. By the time the information reaches the young social platforms it has already been altered and changed, so I feel that my vote will not be meaningful as I’m not sure if the information I’ve heard is right or has been altered.”

words Ryan Cahill
photography Shannon Kennedy
talent CONTACT Agency

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