Youth en­rol­ments a good sign

The Timaru Herald - - COMMENT&OPINION -

67.47 per cent. It’s un­clear just why Ran­gi­tata is far­ing so well in a de­mo­graphic of­ten pegged as ap­a­thetic. It’s true that the Elec­toral Com­mis­sion has been push­ing for higher youth en­rol­ments for years.

Ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions have also joined in, com­ing to­gether for the ‘We Have Power’ cam­paign, which has set the lofty goal of get­ting ev­ery stu­dent to vote. The mes­sage is that if four out of five un­der-30s vote, the group would be­come the strong­est vot­ing bloc in the coun­try. It’s a mes­sage that will ap­peal to young vot­ers, who have in the past com­plained that their voices are rarely heard. Ran­gi­tata’s elec­torate can­di­dates have also been ac­tive, vis­it­ing schools and try­ing to en­gage young peo­ple with the elec­tion process. That was tagged as a pos­si­ble fac­tor be­hind the en­rol­ment fig­ures by Moun­tain­view High School head boy Blake Steel, who told our re­porter that the vis­its had en­cour­aged his peers to get more in­volved.

See­ing politi­cians in the flesh and hav­ing a chance to talk about the is­sues is cer­tainly im­por­tan­tand with a bevy of new can­di­dates stand­ing in Ran­gi­tata, there’s ev­ery chance that has been a breath of fresh air for vot­ers who may need a bit of a prod to get in­volved.

So­cial me­dia may also be play­ing its part. Be­tween Face­book, Twit­ter, In­sta­gram, and other forms of me­dia, it’s eas­ier than ever be­fore for politi­cians to reach young vot­ers. The amount of news­wor­thy tur­moil in this elec­tion cam­paign could also be a fac­tor- the Greens have strong youth back­ing, and the party’s de­clin­ing for­tunes fol­low­ing Me­tiria Turei’s res­ig­na­tion may have spurred some young peo­ple to strengthen that sup­port.

The im­pact of Jacin­da­ma­nia, with its celebrity fans and prom­ise of gen­er­a­tional change, also can’t be ig­nored. It’s not just the Left that is tar­get­ing youth vot­ers. Na­tional’s youth wing, the Young Nats, are in­creas­ingly ac­tive on­line, and have waged a strong so­cial me­dia cam­paign in sup­port of Na­tional poli­cies. Whether it’s one of those fac­tors, or a com­bi­na­tion of them all, that is be­hind the en­rol­ment rate, it’s a good sign for the elec­torate. Young peo­ple will in­herit the re­sults of de­ci­sions made now, and hav­ing them in­volved in the process will ben­e­fit ev­ery­one.

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