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How Young People Have Redefined Political Participation

Voter turnouts in young people aged 18-24 have been steadily decreasing over the years.

In the 2019 general elections, the voter turnout was 47%, decreasing by 7% from the previous general election. Young people are not engaging as much with conventional ways of creating change, instead the rise of social media activism has given young people the voice and direction to actually stand up for what they believe in. Recent events such as the pandemic as well as a call to action to awareness of racial inequality have led to conversations within our communities which have resulted in real action.

We have to ask why. Many young people feel disconnected from political parties and do not place much faith in them. If we look at the UK specifically, this could be explained by an out of touch government who have an image of upper class, Etonian privilege. Many of the issues young people bring up are not represented accurately and are not taken seriously. I don’t think we can use voter turnout figures to say that young people currently are less political than other generations. Actually, this generation has been really innovative when it comes to making their voices heard and calling for action. 

Photo by Thomas de LUZE on Unsplash

Social media plays a huge part in this, we have built up platforms and recognised that our voices are our power. I feel that much of our disaffection with traditional politics is that we have seen that the public’s needs are often not prioritised. We’ve seen our parents and their parents, and it feels like our global problems right now are only getting bigger and bigger. The severe impact of climate change is something that we are getting a front seat to in our own lives, and this has definitely affected our relationship with our government and politicians.

We want to redefine the system. We’ve realised that the system doesn’t really work for us, and it especially doesn’t work for us if we’re Black, Asian or of a minority background. It doesn’t work for us the same way if we’re working class, if we don’t have generational wealth. We should not be profiled as ‘lazy’ or ‘ignorant’ just because a lot of us have genuinely lost faith in the structures governing us.

This is in no way a refusal to engage with mainstream, conventional politics. However, we need to acknowledge that many of us just don’t believe in change through conventional ways anymore, we’ve grown past it and instead, we’ve come to politics on our own terms. Politics is more than what it has been represented as, there should always be drive and passion behind political thought and action and that’s what we have brought to the table.

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