The Reason for a Disengaged Generation

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A disengaged generation? Analyzing the reasons for low turnout by 18-24 year olds and how turnout differs between different elections in the UK.

Turnout in the United kingdom has been falling slowly for the past twenty years, with this general fall there has been an even bigger fall in the number of 18-24 year olds voting. In the last general election the turnout within the 18-24 age group was 45% much lower than the 63.8% average (ipsos-mori). So why does the youngest age group have the lowest turnout? This will be my primary question within this paper. I will also be analyzing the different reasons for the turnout between general elections, local council elections and the recent police commissioner elections within the 18-24 age group. I will do this by first discussing the current literature on the subject, then addressing the methodology of my research starting with my choice of a questionnaire and use of interviews. I will then present my findings in the questionnaire and analyze them, followed by doing the same with an interview. I will then evaluate my research project and the methods used. Finally I will come to the conclusion that young people tend not to vote when they are unsure about what and who they are voting for. This reason does not change between different elections it remains a primary reason in all three the elections I have chosen to investigate.

There is a fair amount of literature on the subject of low turnout elections especially on the turnout of young voters or the lack as most seem argue. Many academics have researched the reasons for young voters apathetic view of voting. They have been described as “uninterested’ youths (Henn 2005) ‘politically apathetic’ (Kimberlee, 1998) and as a ‘disengaged generation’ (Jowell and Park, 1998) (Mycock and Tonge). However there is little on why turnout varies on different elections there is also no age breakdown on local council elections so for this I will have to use my own data and produce my own findings.

The Youth Citizenship Commission (YCC) was set up in 2008 under the Labour prime minister Gordon Brown. The commission was set up with an aim of understanding how young people can participate in politics and wether the voting age should be lowered to 16. The YCC found that 18-24 year olds have always had a lower turnout than other age groups. This they argued showed that people must become more interested with politics and participate more as they become older. However the YCC has found that turnout within the 18-24 age group has been falling at a higher rate for the past 20 years apart form a spike in the 1997 general election at 59.7%. This declined dramatically in 2001 to 49.4% and further still to 37% in 2005. Reasons for this may be that young people have a lack of knowledge and understanding politically which causes them to choose not to vote. The YCC also argue that many young people feel disengaged with politics as most party policies have little effect to them another argument they give is that young people are not represented in the house of commons which may also make them feel disengaged.

Kimberlee (1998) argues there is no clear reason why young people do not vote. One reason is a so called ‘don’t care culture’ and an apathetic approach to society and politics. This explanation is often used by the media however Kimberlee does not believe this to be a main reason. He argues that it may be that young people are excluded from politics because of little policy that affects them. His final argument is that the younger generation now have much more pressure to gain a job and enter an adult status. This comes at a time when youth unemployment is twice that of any their age group. Because young people are now finding it more difficult to find a job and enter adult status then this may reflect their lack of political engagement.

The method I chose to gain quantitative data was to produce a short online self-completion questionnaire...
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