29 Dec 2014

Young voters care about living costs, not immigration or EU

A report finds undecided young people may hold the key to the general election. And they care more about online privacy and housing than immigration and the EU.

They care more about privacy than immigration to be engaged need politicians to make better use of the web.

With an election looming, it’s young people that may hold the key, according to new research by a think tank which finds three in four 18-25 year olds intend to vote, but only half have decided who to vote for.

A Demos report found that the issue most likely to motivate young adults to vote are cost of living (69% of people), housing (62%) and unemployment (58%). Fewer were motivated by online privacy concerns (50%) and fewer still about immigration (43%) and Britain’s future in the EU (34%).

Similarly, the most popular policies relate to guaranteed jobs or apprenticeships and raising the minimum wage.

Young people would be more likely to vote if they could so online and if they were informed online that their friends and family were voting, the report claims.

Britain has the largest gap far between how many young and old people vote, out of countries in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), leading many to call for sweeping changes.

In a foreword to the report, John Bercow MP, speak of the House of Commons said: “Young people are not a ‘lost cause’ as far as electoral participation is concerned. A large proportion firmly intends to vote and another sizeable section would vote if inspired to do so.”

Demos say that while youth turnout is low, example of US Democrats and the Scottish referendum indicates that opportunities for engagement do exist.

‘None of the above’

Electronic voting and an option to vote for “none of the above” are among the methods that could fix disillusionment.

E-voting technology is still a long way off, with transparency still a key concern, but the benefits of online voting are said to likely lead to a huge increase in turnout.

The report recommends offering more policies that appeal to young people, but many suggestions focus on MPs better reaching young people using the internet, with MPs urged to make social media a core part of their work, not a public relations “add-on”.

Online consultations and town hall meetings to talk to people are suggested, while the report urges charities and organisations to target use social media to reach women and young people not in education or training, who are particularly unlikely to vote compared to men and those in employment.

An “I voted” button on Facebook has been proven to increase turnout, and is recommended to become standard practice at election time.