Youth vote not critical to poll outcome, say experts
ANALYSTS have warned there’s no telling the extent to which the youth vote will make a difference to the outcome in the upcoming municipal elections.
And that’s because municipal elections are local in nature and the results primarily limited to the locality in which a vote is cast.
Professor Cherrel Africa, senior political science lecturer at the University of the Western Cape, believes it’s unlikely the youth vote will play a significant role.
“They are spread throughout the country so we will not see an effect in particular wards or regions.
“Their political socialisation and life experiences may differ sharply from each other. Even if they were concentrated in a particular area, they would still be unlikely to vote as a bloc.”
According to voter registration, about 547 000 people aged between 18 and 19 have registered to vote nationally. The number is just more than 49 000 in the Western Cape.
In the age group 20 to 29, about 552 000 people have registered to vote in the province, compared to 5.8 million countrywide.
Africa said it was important for the youth to cast their ballot. “It is important for people to remain engaged both at election time and between elections, even if they feel disillusioned.
“Young people should be engaged in democratic processes and not simply see elections as ‘one of those things’. Not only is voting an important act of citizenship, it is important to vote because many people paid a high price, some with their lives so that we could move from authoritarian society into a more humane and democratic one.”
Her views were echoed by Professor Erwin Schwella of the School of Public Leadership at Stellenbosch University.
“The youth are affected by many socio-economic issues and so it is extremely important that they take part,” he said.
Schwella suggested some young people may be discouraged from vot- ing thanks to unethical governance and inefficiencies they witness in their everyday life. Not seeing progress or losing hope in these areas would affect young people’s level of participation, Schwella added.
Africa said voters’ perceptions were shaped by their past experiences, voting history and informational networks, along with evaluations of party leadership and candidates.
“Many in this age category may have been influenced by the student movements and protests of last year. That does not mean that any particular party would benefit from that influence, but perhaps, though not necessarily, they may be more motivated to cast their ballot,” she said.