EU Referendum: Were the young shafted by the old ones?

Young people complain that they did not have a chance to vote on an issue that will affect their life very directly and that the over 64 influenced unduly the Brexit vote.

I have been trying to unravel this one: we know that young people were overwhelmingly in favour of Remain, so why didn’t they carry the day?

…despite high national turnout, key areas analysed by the Guardian showed that turnout among young, remain voters appears not to reflect the historic significance of the vote. The median age in an area was the strongest predictor of turnout and showed a familiar pattern – the older the median age in an area, the more likely it was to have had a high turnout.

The Guardian

According to Ch4 25% of the young demographic voted – they don’t give the source of their data. This is a low turnout by young people, for such an important issue.

I am not a statistician – but if we are going to take seriously the young people’s complaints, we have to know whether they took the issue seriously enough, and whether they did anything about it like, for instance, bother to go to vote.

As to the demand to lower the voting age to 16 or 17, with my experience of that age group, I’d say that they are adults, except volatile ones. I would be in favour of letting 16 year olds vote for local issues, raising it gradually to national issues by age 18. The advantage would be that they would learn to become involved with issues close to home, where they can see and touch the immediate results and consequences, moving to more complex, national issues as they mature. I certainly wouldn’t entrust the future of a large country and ultimately the EU to intelligent (40% of them have degrees versus 7% for the over 60) but hormonal 16 year olds, sorry.

A key issue is young people’s engagement (from the same story in the Guardian):

Michael Sani, from the youth voter movement Bite the Ballot, which registered hundreds of thousands in the run up to the poll, said he understood the feelings of helplessness and anger among the younger generation, but said turnout had been affected by the direction of both campaigns.

“If no one inspires you, that is how you end up being marginalised, divided and fearing,” he said. “This generation are so passionate, they care so much about issues, but they are just not empowered to use the means of communication to get through to make real change. Both campaigns have been a disaster in terms of meaningful engagement on such complex issues.”

Now that is pure unadulterated bullshit – nobody needs to empower young people to use the most powerful communication tool ever invented: the Internet and social media. If they can Tweet, share on Facebook or G+ everything they see, eat and excrete, they can also get involved in a political debate that will affect the rest of their life. If they can take their eyes off their smartphones long enough to read something meaningful.


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