Filling in the gap in politics – youth engagement

Dora Trofor

By Dora Trofor.

What does politics have to do with me? What is politics? It’s not like I can change anything anyway. A lot of young people can have these thoughts when talk of politics comes up.

If politics feels like something far removed from their lives, young people can fail to see the direct impact politics has on their lives. This in turn can mean they also do not see a way they can engage with it in order to shape their future, their societies and the world. Alongside having a say on the policies, laws, rules and regulations that affect them in their daily lives, engaging with politics can also have a profoundly positive influence on their personal development.

Getting involved in a debate or attending a political meeting develops critical thinking, communication and listening skills all essential ingredients in the world today. Being in touch with politics can help young people see how government and the legislation it creates affects their right to privacy, access to health care, right to education, future career plans, family life, funding for HE or further training and even their dress code.

Statistics have shown that between 1992 and 2005, youth turnout at UK general elections declined by 28% and hovered around the 40% mark since, which is one of the lowest among EU members.[1]

Clearly, an increase of youth voters can cause dramatic changes.[2] This was evidenced in this June’s General Election when Theresa May’s plan was turned upside when 57% of the youth voted causing the Conservatives to lose seats and placing the Labour party in a much stronger position.[3] This certainly makes one wonder what would have been the outcome of Brexit if more young people had voted, especially when we examine the close results and findings that the youngest authorities voted mostly ‘remain’ while the oldest authorities voted to leave.[4]

While England is struggling to consistently draw their youth to vote, Scotland granted the right to 16 and 17 year olds to vote in all Scottish elections.[5] Is this something England should consider?

In other words, it is vital for young people to be engaged in politics, our young people need and have a right to know it is the way they can influence their present and future. The statistics state it loud and clear, if they speak, they will be heard.

Dora Trofor is a graduate from the University of Essex. She studied Law and Human Rights before going on to complete a master’s degree in Human Rights and Humanitarian Law. Dora joined the Foundation to develop a new secondary school offer to better educate young people about politics.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/may/18/how-solve-youth-voting-crisis-voter-registration-election

[2] https://yougov.co.uk/news/2017/04/25/demographics-dividing-britain/

[3] https://yougov.co.uk/news/2017/06/13/how-britain-voted-2017-general-election/

[4] https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/brexit-vote-explained-poverty-low-skills-and-lack-opportunities?gclid=COiE08GBwNQCFWa77Qod30wKyw

[5] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/16-17-year-olds-granted-5911671

Views expressed on this blog are not necessarily those of the Citizenship Foundation.

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