A general election in 2015, a Brexit referendum in 2016, a general election in 2017: Brits have been asked to give their opinion in poll stations a lot over the past few years.
However, there has been a clear decline in general election turnout since 1992 where 78% of Brits made their voices heard compared to only 66% in 2015 (source: UK Political Info).
So what is the reason for this lack of participation?
It first seems that there is a misunderstanding of the ways people can vote. Less than half of Brits actually know that they can register online (Source: OMD Research), 24% think that they are automatically registered to vote if they pay council tax and 23% believe that one person can register their whole household to vote. These figures clearly show a lack of understanding of the registration process.
This lack of knowledge explains why there is a correlation between having a degree and likeliness to vote. More educated people seem more aware of the voting process, have greater knowledge of politics in general and are therefore more engaged with this process.
When looking at the profile of voters and non-voters in the 2015 general election, there is a clear increase of participation in older generations. 89% of 55+ took part in this election (source: YouGov) but only 17% of 18-24s did so. And not only do young people vote less than older generations but their participation in votes has significantly decreased when compared to older generations.
Therefore it seems that this is a generational problem as today’s young people seem less engaged with the voting process than young people of past generations. The top three reasons given by young people for their lack of engagement is a lack of knowledge, the perception that all parties are the same and the concern that no single party matches an individual’s specific list of concerns (source: The Guardian).
Conscious of the lack of involvement that young generations have towards voting, a number of political organisations, parties and celebrities have targeted them by launching social media campaigns around the messaging of the need to register to vote.
Another recent example of this is Google encouraging people to register to vote with the message ‘Want your say in June? Register to vote by 22 May’ on their homepage.
So can we truly talk about a democracy when there is such a big part of the population that doesn’t seem to feel close enough to a topic to make their voice heard?
With the French having just elected the youngest president of all time (39 years old) and his own party refusing to belong to either of the conventional ones, are there some learnings that we can take to engage young people in politics and make them gain trust in parties? Or does the solution lie in making voting mandatory as is the case in Australia?
No matter how we answer the above questions, there is a clear opportunity for brands, organisations and the government to educate younger audiences and less educated people about politics as well as the voting process and find ways to personalise messaging to them to make them feel more involved in politics.