FOCUS ON YOUNG VOTERS
With the General Election looming the turnout for young voters is as low as ever. A new campaign hopes to use social media to encourage more under-24s to cast their votes
FACEBOOK and Twitter could be the key to helping disenchanted young people to take an interest in political discussions.
Deputy leader of Bucks County Council, Mike Appleyard, will highlight the issue of a decline in young people’s votes at the county council meeting on Thursday next week.
He will ask councillors to do some research in their divisions to try to find out why young people have become disengaged with politics and local issues.
Mr Appleyard said: “The reality is that there appears to be a declining interest in voting by young people and that is something we ought to at least mention. We need to take action to try and improve the situation.”
A British election study shows that the percentage of under 24s voting declined from 76 per cent in 1964 to just over 51 per cent in 2010 and 38 per cent in 2005.
He said: “Clearly we are not communicating with them in the way that young people communicate. We need to start to communicate with them by social media rather than newspapers and so on.”
Mr Appleyard has suggested there could be a Facebook page where young people can discuss their views about political decisions together.
He said: “They are probably not now always listening to the news on the radio or watching it on the television, they are taking their news from social media and if nobody is getting through to them about the fact they are voting for things that are going to affect them through their whole adult lives.
“These people who are closer to leaving this world are making the decisions for them in the long term. I think that young people have got to realise that political decisions are made and
they very often have a very long term effect. They are the people who will be around for the next 50 years and they must make themselves heard, voting is important.”
Mr Appleyard did not think that young people should be less inclined to vote because Buckinghamshire has traditionally been a Conservative stronghold.
He said: “There is a distinct possibility that in the next election, at least one MP in Buckinghamshire could go under, with UKIP for instance.
“Their vote does count and it is perfectly possible in a Conservative county to get Conservatives out if that is what they want to do.”
Commons Speaker John Bercow’s Digital Democracy Commission has also been looking at why people, especially young adults, are being alienated from the world of Westminster.
Mr Appleyard suggested that schools could ignite more passion for politics by teaching young people more about it, involving campaigns in the curriculum and encourage debating.
He said: “It is about engaging children from all sorts of schools and getting them out to talk about things.
“We have seen over the past few years how voting for different parties has changed the way the health service operates, it has changed all sorts of things.”
Mr Appleyard thinks that it is vital that young people understand that they can make a difference by voting and politics is relevant to their lives. He added: “Political parties are very keen to hear from young people and what they want. They are not hearing a lot and that is serious.
“It is a big election year and nobody quite knows how it is going to turn out and hopefully the run up to the election will be quite exciting.
“I think they [the youth] need to be heard. It is old duffers, like me, who are making all of the decisions about their future,” the politician said.
He added: “Young people need to speak up, otherwise as the public purse shrinks they will become side-lined in national and local government policies in favour of those who vote in greater numbers – the over 65s.”
TAKING ACTION: Buckinghamshire County Council cabinet member for education and skills Mike Appleyard