As part of our #imvotingbecause campaign we asked University of Bristol second year Sociology student and Policy Press intern Katie Lucas, to share her insight into voting amongst the student population.
Katie argues that more positive and campaign driven media coverage as well as an increase in informal, social discussions about politics as key ways in which young people could easily be re-engaged in the process.
I must confess I, Katie Lucas, did not vote in the last election. I am embarrassed to admit that I am one of those youths who didn’t muster the effort to walk the 5 minutes to my local polling station to vote.
But then I had the audacity to complain and despair after the EU parliament elections didn’t go the way I had expected. When discussing the EU election in 2014 with my friends, nearly all of them were disappointed the outcome and most of them also hadn’t actually participated in the vote. Why is this? I reflected upon my own feelings and did some further delving in order to try and understand why we weren’t participating.
Lack of knowledge
A major impact is a simple lack of knowledge. Young people don’t really know what the campaigns strive for and even more worryingly don’t really know the actual date of the election. As a student I can admit it can be easy to get wrapped up in your student bubble and the outside world can simply escape you.
It seems that the EU election was one these events that passed many by. Perhaps, it escaped some people’s attention because they really didn’t know who to vote for and therefore ignored any broadcasts and articles.
“Many of my peers had no idea what the different parties were standing for…”
Many of my peers who I spoke to had no idea what the different parties were standing for and many felt that researching and finding out seemed like a daunting, arduous task and therefore ignored the whole thing all together.
In combination with lack of knowledge, it seems that lots of the information that is presented is extremely negative. Newspapers and blogs slamming campaigns and politicians- mocking Ed Miliband, David Cameron etc.
When I review the information I do know about the parties’ campaigns it’s more about what they are doing wrong and why they are incompetent rather than anything positive highlighting a promising future or a policy that has worked.
It is all so discouraging, it often feels like we’re simply voting for the lesser of two evils. Is it more about keeping certain people OUT of power rather than wanting certain people in? It seems to have created a sense of apathy amongst those I spoke with – What’s the point in voting?
“We shouldn’t be aspiring to apathy over participation”
This is really not what young people should be feeling. We shouldn’t be aspiring to apathy over participation. Certainly Russell Brand’s cries of ‘there’s nothing worth voting for’ aren’t helping by validating those who aren’t.
Not everyone feels this way though. I do know those who do vote. Most were encouraged by discussions of politics at home or having participated in some sort of politics course at school or college. My friends who vote were appalled that I hadn’t and were all so willing to help me understand what certain parties argue and why it is important to vote.
After the EU elections with UKIP coming out on top I realised how important it is that I do vote, even if it is just to keep those who I really disagree with out of power. I urge young people to discuss the elections with friends or family as this can be a much less daunting way of finding out information.
Overall, I don’t know what the answer is but it clearly is a huge issue with a large proportion of my friends who don’t vote. Scotland’s substantial turn out when deciding whether to separate from England or not is something to aspire to if we want the political outcomes to express our actual opinions and thoughts.
I have now registered to vote in the general election in May as it has become clear to me how important it is and how ridiculous it is that I didn’t vote – it really is no effort at all for something that will actually impact me in the future. Each vote can make a difference and I hope to inspire my friends to follow suit.
#imvotingbecause #whyvote #GE2015