6 May 2015

How online is mobilising the youth vote at #election2015

Two young activists have been taking very different approaches to youth engagement at this general election.

One of them is urging new young voters to vote, while the other is encouraging them to spoil their ballot. Kieran Yates has been to meet them.

There are six million potential young voters who will hit the ballot boxes this Thursday. In 2010, only 44 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds voted in the general election (compared with 76 per cent of people aged 65 and over) which has led to a general cultural consensus that young people don’t care about politics. However, there are those who are challenging the accusation of political apathy.

The internet has been a powerful tool in this election, and, according to a recent report by Ipsos Mori, one third of 18-24 year olds say social media will influence their vote, second only to the TV debates. Young people are politically engaged online, and the campaigns range from those trying to reinvigorate a disillusioned youth, to those who want young people to use their vote as a form of protest.

Duro Oye

Duro Oye is disillusioned with traditional politics and is encouraging 100,000 young voters to spoil their ballots ahead of the election. He believes that there is a need for an alternative that really speaks to the concerns of young voters, and is sceptical that any political parties represent him.

His campaign, ‘Vote 4 X’ urges young voters to spoil their ballots by adding an additional box and marking it with an ‘X’. He hopes that if enough people spoil their ballot in the same way, it will send a message that current politics isn’t working.

Hannah Witton

Hannah Witton is a YouTuber who has a following of over 120,000 – a figure that’s close to the entire membership of some of the main political parties. Rather than rejecting the offerings of modern politics, she has been using her following to encourage disengaged young people to vote.

Her platform, which is targeted mainly at 18-24 year olds, has been cultivated thanks to her popular channel aimed around sex and relationships. In the run up to the election, she turned her sights to youth voters, urging them to register to vote so as to have a say on things like social inequality.

Her video was part of a campaign by vInspire to encourage young people to vote. She has used social platforms to open up discussion and debate, and her engagement suggests that youth debate about the election is rampant – it’s just happening on twitter and in YouTube comments.

Social change

Oye and Witton are representative of a growing movement of young people using the internet to call for change, or, to mobilise young voters. Both are using different tactics to speak to young people, and only time will tell whose approach has been most effective.

As politics continues to shift, in a world of memes, gifs and hashtags, one thing is certain: politicians may have to work harder in order to engage the six million undecided youth voters.

Videos courtesy of Paul Hurley/David Schneider/Hand Face Productions/Huffington Post, @2020ChangeUk, @hannahwitton. Kieran Yates @kieran_yates is a freelance journalist.