Why don't young people vote in elections?

In the 2015 general election, 66.4% of the UK electorate turned up to the polls, meaning that two-thirds of the people who were qualified to do so voted. However, among 18 to 24-year-olds, this turnout figure was only 58%. It was a similar story in the 2016 EU referendum: an overall turnout figure of 72% trumped the number of young people voting - only 64% of 18 to 24-year-olds turned up to the ballot boxes, in stark contrast to the 90% of over-65s who voted. 

Although young turnout figures are up compared to the 2001, 2005 and 2010 elections, there is still more that could be done to encourage students and young adults to vote. So, why aren't young people engaging with the democratic process and how can this be changed?

Voter apathy

One theory is that young people are apathetic towards politics: they simply don't care. Some millennials may not be convinced that voting is all that important in a political landscape where many of the parties are socially liberal and centrist in terms of the economy. A paper by Warwick University weighed up the voting process in terms of benefits and costs to young people. Although the costs - hassle, registering to vote etc. - were relatively minimal, the paper found that young people were unlikely to see their vote as making a difference and most voted purely for emotional reasons - so they could say "it's good to take part in the democratic process" or "at least I voted", for example. For those who aren't too bothered by this, there's no real reason to participate.

Voter antipathy

Younger people tend to be more radical in their political views and some may have a deep-seated aversion to mainstream political figures. The 2008 election of Barack Obama was meant to be a vote for 'hope', but nearly a decade on, nothing appears to have really changed for young people in the US.

Political parties don't address the needs of young people

In his analysis of the 2015 general election, political scientist Dr James Sloam looked at the manifestos of the six major UK parties and discovered that mentions of 'young people' in these 100+ page dossiers was virtually negligible. The Green Party came out on top, with 35 mentions of the term, with Labour and the Conservatives next on 30 and 21 respectively. UKIP, meanwhile, came bottom of the table with just five mentions of 'young people'. Although the Greens had a specific chapter of their manifesto dedicated to youth policy, political parties can often seem to be pandering to middle-aged and older people, making younger adults less inclined to vote.

How can young people be encouraged to vote?

In most studies and articles, it is identified that young people need to understand the difference voting makes, and some have suggested that politics be introduced as a mandatory part of the national curriculum. Online voting seems like a powerful tool in increasing youth engagement as well.  But these ideas aside, research shows that young people don't vote because political parties aren't offering them anything worth voting for, so maybe a more structural change is required.