Young people in the General Election

I think it is fair to say that election mania has well and truly hit. Towns are plastered in (predominantly blue) placards, and newspapers are divulging every detail about the campaign trail. However, this has been an election mainly fought via screens. We’ve seen party leaders given the third degree in talks with Jeremy Paxman, and in live tv debates. We’ve seen parties reaching out to supporters via Twitter, and the Telegraph website even offers a quiz to help you gauge which party best suits your views.

Of course, all this excitement isn’t hard to understand. This election is arguably the most exciting election this country has had in years, because no one seems to know what is going to happen. Poll predicting organisations give wildly different figures, as the possibility of another coalition looms closer and closer.

What really struck me was the interest I, and young people on the whole, have shown in the elections. On a variety of occasions, I have found myself debating party polices over shared bags of crisps, and chewing over immigration, whilst chewing over sweets.

So given this, and the fact that in this election, young people really do have the power to drastically change the way they learn; (UKIP are promising to re-introduce grammar schools, and scrap fees for students taking degrees in science, technology, maths, or engineering; whilst the Greens plan to abolish tuition fees entirely, as well as scrapping ofsted, and SATS). why is it that so few young people vote? Is it apathy? Do they feel ignored, and alienated by the parties who promise to help them? Do they not understand enough about the parties? Do they simply believe that none of the parties really represent their views?

In the 2010 general election, 51.2% of young people voted, which was higher than it had been in many years, but still way lower that the 66% overall turnout. Nick Clegg’s message to non-voters was this: ‘Not voting is like going to Nando’s, asking someone else to order for you and not getting what you like. The fact is, if you don’t vote, others will, and you will have to live with the result. If you care about what happens to the economy, the NHS, education or the  environment over the next five years, then voting matters.’

On the whole, it seems that the reason young people choose not to vote isn’t because they don’t understand each manifesto; (after all, in this day and age, it’s not hard to find a myriad of information within a couple of clicks), or because they don’t care; they evidently do . As long as parties listen to the needs of first time voters, I’m sure more and more young people will engage in politics.

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