Saturday 31 January 2015

Saturday, January 31, 2015 Posted by Jake 6 comments Labels: , , , , , ,
Posted by Jake on Saturday, January 31, 2015 with 6 comments | Labels: , , , , , ,

2,400 or so years ago an ancient Greek, possibly the philosopher Socrates, said:

"Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers."

2,400 or so years later another figure from the past, Michael Gove MP formerly Secretary of State for Education, was still searching for bright ideas to get the young to do the right thing. Gove encouraged teachers to discipline wayward youths by getting them:

"to do extra work, or to repeat unsatisfactory work; to write lines, or an extra essay...picking up litter, or washing graffiti off a wall, tidying a classroom, clearing up the dining hall."

People often complain about the youth of today, imagining things were better when they were young. The evidence of the last few millennia suggest young people have always been really annoying.

However, there is one way today's young have clearly fallen behind earlier generations of youngsters. According to the British Election Study, it is only since 1997 that young people really got out of the habit of voting.

Combining data from three sources,
we can see young people are bad at registering for the vote, and also bad at turning up to vote:
Note that 18-24 band is 7 years wide, while others upto 84 are 5 years wide.
More worryingly, a report commissioned by the Electoral Commission from Essex University states that the habit of not voting isn't a passing phase that the young will grow out of. It is a habit they are holding on to as they age:

"the effective British electorate is becoming progressively older, election by election. 
Moreover, it seems unlikely that this is a ‘life cycle effect’ in which currently young non-voters will turn into voters as they get older. 
On the contrary, the spread of relatively high levels of non-voting to all three of the younger cohorts suggests that, over the last 30 years or so, habits of non-voting acquired in youth have tended to be carried forward into middle age – and will perhaps continue even into old age."

Changing a person's habits, whether young or old, is very hard. But to get them to do just one thing just once is much easier. Look no further than your local supermarket to see the science of manipulating us into impulse buying. Various academic papers suggest over 50% of our supermarket purchases are unplanned. So why not get the youth to impulse vote? Even if they make the wrong choice, as tends to happen with impulse shopping, at least they get into the habit of choosing and learning from their mistakes.

Political parties, its time to get your older supporters to get their juniors out to vote. Parents, it's time to get your voting age offspring to vote. You know what motivates them better than Nige, Nick, Ed, Dave etc.

It's particularly worth it in certain constituencies, where 18-24 year olds can be nearly a quarter of voters:

And it's particularly worth it in constituencies where just 1 in 20 non-voters voting for the second placed candidate would topple an MP (all other things being equal):

According to a report for the Electoral Commission by Essex University, after the 2005 General Election:

“The single most powerful way in which turnout in British general elections could be increased would be to increase the sense of civic duty among the young, particularly among the under 40s.”

Surely in this 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, this 50th anniversary of Winston Churchill's death, that can't be so hard? 

Remind them of their Civic Duty! If you need help, then try this:


  1. great article (including the video link)

  2. "Young people not being interested in politics isn't apathy, it's reflective impotence. They recognise it's meaningless. Across the last series of The X Factor, 40 million of us voted. That's more than voted in the last General Election." - Brand quoted in the Independent
    Listened to a great US radio show recently about nihilism being cool.
    We've been talking about climate change, doomsday scenarios for all these kids school lives - do they see any politicos doing anything serious about it? If they're not going to take it seriously why should we.
    I really value this blog's straight-up perspective and insight, but totally understand not wanting to vote.

    1. Not many seem to agree, but I do :)

    2. The average career politician really is just a failed door to door salesman who will tell you what they think will serve themselves the most and further their own interest and career the younger generation has wised up sooner that the hopeful older, who i must say remain hopeful but so far recent (50 years) candidates have been a great disapointment

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Big national parties seem intent on an election formula that creates a brand and marketing it, with vast sums of our hard-earned tax payers money as well as wealthy donors. Focus groups of "Tory voters" were paid £60 a head for an hour and a half local consultancy as to what to put in the leaflets. Marketing gurus create the leaflets to match, train the candidate and pay deliveries to wing leaflets to each voter up to six times, three phone calls per household and a door knock, all for under £100,000 per MP. The quality of the individual seems to matter far less than slick and expensive marketing. Do young people without s past sense of duty, thus give it the cold shoulder? If they were not Voters last time, they won't be on the hit list to join the focus groups and the marketing and policies will not be aimed at them either, leaving them further disenfranchised. Would it be novel for electors to find and support the best person for the job?


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