Around 3.3 million young people will have their first chance to vote at the general election in May and yet a recent report by British Future, an independent non-partisan think-tank, has discovered that over 2 million young people will not vote.
This is not a new phenomenon however; according to The British Election Study, the percentage of 18 to 24-year-olds who have actually exercised their right to vote has been consistently lower than every single other age group since the 1970’s.
To be fair, this percentage did reportedly increase at the last general election, however this still only equated to 44% of us, in comparison to the 76% of over-65’s who turned out and the 66% national turnout. Moreover, considering the fact that this increase was largely due to the Lib-Dem’s now unfortunately broken promise with regards to tuition fees, this figure is likely to fall again in May 2015.
This is not helped by figures like Russell Brand who further discourage under-25’s from voting through the use of pretentiously long words and idealistic notions of a state-free society. The thing is, it just does not make any logical sense to not vote. Activism and protesting is great and pretty much indispensable to a properly functioning democracy but realistically, so is casting your vote.
Simply not voting is not the answer to our dissatisfaction and it will get us nowhere. A political party’s most fundamental function is to achieve control of government in order to put into practice the policies which favour the individuals and groups who support them. They will only seek to gain the support of those individuals who are voting, because if they are not voting at all then they obviously won’t be voting for them, so what would be the point? If we stop voting, then they will stop chasing after our votes – they will stop listening to what we want because what we want is not what is going to get them into office.
On top of this, given how vastly unpopular the main political parties are with young voters, it is actually in their interest to not have us turn out in May. When you consider the fact that 75% of over-65’s say they will definitely vote, the vast majority of whom will vote either Labour or Conservative, what incentive do either of these parties have to listen to us? If we do not vote, the government will continue to get away with making policy decisions that do not benefit us.
Much of this disillusionment and political apathy is due to the widespread feeling that mainstream politicians do not understand the issues that are of the greatest importance to young people. If we increase the percentage of young people who vote in May to meet the 60% national average, these additional 650,000 votes could have an incredibly huge impact on the outcome of what is forecast to be an extremely close election. If we increase the percentage of young people who vote in May, then politicians will be forced to start understanding and responding to the issues that young people care about.
The question now is, who to vote for? One thing’s for sure though, Russell’s own personal brand of pseudo-revolutionary rubbish is definitely not the answer.
To be honest, with faith in political parties failing, at this point I don’t even know exactly who I am going to vote for, but the most detrimental thing our generation could do is to follow in Russell Brand’s wilfully controversial shoes.
Registering to vote is quick and easy online: https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote
Image courtesy of D B Young via Flickr