Kate Raison explores the issue of apathy in young voters.
‘Disinterested’, ‘apathetic’, ‘indifferent’: these are words I’ve heard those around me use to describe the attitudes of the younger generation towards politics, particularly in the last few years. Millennials are frequently viewed as lazy and uncaring about our futures.
But is this true? Political apathy among young adults stems from having nothing to engage with, not a supposed unconcerned attitude. It’s hard to become interested in politics if you have no one to believe in.
why bother if we don’t believe our voice will be heard?
This goes some way to explain the surge of support for anti-establishment figures, such as Corbyn. In 2015, during Corbyn’s first leadership bid, ‘Corbynmania’ hit the country by storm with a considerable number of his supporters being under 25. When there is someone to believe in and trust, many come out in support and get interested in politics. But why bother if we don’t believe our voice will be heard?
In 2016 this support had gone down, with exit polls suggesting more 18-24 year-olds voted for Smith; an unsurprising result given Corbyn’s unsuccessful influence in his own party, let alone parliament: hope that he is our saviour from a stifling government is rapidly diminishing.
— Kevin Grass, artist (@fineartfan) 4 November 2014
Our distrust in politicians isn’t unfounded either, particularly for students. No one can forget Nick Clegg’s fall from grace. It’s largely irrelevant here whether it was his fault that university tuition fees rose, what matters is that they did. And not marginally, they tripled.
After all the campaigning to keep the fees down and all the false promises from politicians, they went up astronomically. And then, as if to twist the knife in the wound, they later scrapped maintenance grants, turning them into loans, leaving those from poorer backgrounds with the prospect of even more debt to struggle through.
This distrust has led to a lack of hope that politicians govern in the interests of the young, leading to confusion, frustration and a feeling of being hard done by. Crippling the younger generation through debt, a lack of housing and a lack of jobs, doesn’t bode well for the country 20 years later when we’re the economic force supporting the rest of the population.
Putting that to one side, young people feel cheated. The expectation that the older generations should look out for us, and help us achieve the best future possible, has fallen flat. At the risk of sounding like a toddler, it just feels unfair. And perhaps that’s why those who are older don’t listen to us – when we say that it isn’t right or fair, we sound like children.
It’s time for politicians to realise that investment in the younger generations is incredibly important
However, they really should start listening. Those who took away free university education benefited from it themselves and then robbed our generation of the opportunity. With university fees set to rise again, we are a generation faced by the prospect of debt hanging over our heads for a long time to come.
It isn’t just university fees that get us down. Youth unemployment (ages 18-24) for June to August of this year is lower than previous quarters, but it still makes up almost 30% of all those unemployed across the country. Add the exclusion of under-25s from the National Living Wage of £7.20/hour and our economic prospects aren’t looking great.
— Jest_the_best (@Jest_the_best) 18 March 2016
It’s time for politicians to realise that investment in the younger generations is incredibly important to the future of the country. Until they do, and they start improving the prospects of young people, many are going to stay apathetic. Not through a lack of caring, instead because we have no one to believe in.
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