Students to the ballot box: vote in 2024

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In the 2019 General Election, only 47% of 18- to 24-year olds voted, according to statistics published by Ipsos, representing a 7% decreasesince the 2017 election. But why are so many young people choosing not to engage in politics?

According to a 2022 report by the UK Parliament, 60% of 18- to 25-year-olds think that politicians ‘don’t care’. Further statistics from the British Youth Council reveal that 71% of young people do not feel that political parties speak directly to them in the lead-up to elections. These statistics are indicative of general feelings of political apathy and mistrust in the government, which are so prevalent among this age group.

In the 2019 General Election, only 47% of 18- to 24-year olds voted, according to statistics published by Ipsos, representing a 7% decreasesince the 2017 election


So why is it important for young people to vote? Put simply, it is the only way to effect positive, impactful change. Young people
do not vote because they feel like policies do not affect them, but policies do not affect them because they don’t vote. Political candidates think strategically about how to guarantee their place in Parliament, meaning they cater their policies to their potential voters. So, the only way to encourage the government to make the changes we want to see is to be vocal and demonstrate young people’s electoral value by using the right to vote.

As a society, we must put more measures in place to encourage young people to vote. One of the most important steps that should be taken is introducing better political education. It doesn’t have to be party-specific, in fact, an apolitical education would be better
in allowing people to form their own opinions. It is crucial that people understand how parliament and our voting systems work, in order to fully comprehend the impact that their vote can have. Teachers are, however, incredibly stretched as it is, so it cannot be their sole responsibility to encourage the youth to vote. Another way to encourage young people to vote is to make them feel listened to and represented. If young adults do not feel that politicians understand their needs and values, they will never feel that their vote can make a difference.

One way to change this sentiment is to hold political youth forums with local MPs to discuss environmental and social justice issues which are so important to young people. It is also crucial to have a diverse Parliament, of all genders, races, and sexual orientations, so that everyone feels represented in government.

Many people dismiss local elections as unimportant, but they are one of the best ways to have your say on changes you want to see in your area

However, a proven way to push young people to the polling stations is for prominent figures in society to speak out about politics. When young adults see their role models speaking out about these issues, they are more likely to feel moved to follow their advice. One high- profile example is when global pop sensation, Taylor Swift, posted a message on her Instagram story in September 2023, urging her followers to register to vote. As a consequence, Vote.org, the American Voting Registration website reported a staggering 13,000 visitors to the website every half an hour. Some high-profile individuals may be apprehensive about making such political statements in fear of negatively impacting their public image, but this case study proves that it is possible to speak out in non-
party specific ways and still cause tangible social change.

So, with this in mind, what upcoming elections can we get involved in? On 2nd May, local elections will be held across the UK, including the North East Mayoral Election. Many people dismiss local elections as unimportant, but they are one of the best ways to have your say on changes you want to see in your area. As students, we are able to register to vote at both term-time and home addresses, so if you are not from the local area, be sure to apply for a postal vote or to vote by proxy so you can have your say both in Durham and at home. We are also expecting a General Election this year, although a specific date has not yet been confirmed. Parliament will automatically dissolve on 17th December 2024, so we can expect to see an election by then.

With both these elections taking place, 2024 is sure to be a year of political change. Let’s hope that it’s also the year where young people come out and make their voices heard to shape this change.

Image: Secretlondon123 via Wikimedia Commons

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