Youth political participation in UK far from disappearing

Jacqueline Briggs, University of Lincoln, reveals why politicians and decision-makers should pay attention to a demographic who are, quite literally, the future in Young People and Political Participation: Teen Players.  youth political participation

The UK’s Measuring National Well-being Survey of 2014 showed that 42 per cent of surveyed 16-24-year-olds claimed to be totally uninterested in politics, writes Briggs. Delving deeper into such claims, and borrowing from scholars in the area, she finds that the problem may not be one of apathy, but of visibility. Youth participation in UK civic life is far from disappearing, apparently. It has, however, moved location, she argues – and politicians, decision-makers and social scientists should be watching and listening.

The author lays out evidence that contradicts popular notions of youth apathy and political disconnect. While young people may not be as keen to vote, they are, she notes, having their say in new ways – about issues that matter to them. Pointing to youth involvement in issue-based campaigns, direct action, petitions, and politics-based brand endorsement or rejection, she identifies these acts as new forms of political involvement. In addition, she highlights digital social networking sites as new locations for youth discussions and mobilisation on political issues.

The book discusses a number of questions around youth political participation. Should people be able to vote at age 16? Do exercises like youth parliaments and cabinets help foster participation in the long run? How may policy-makers support greater participation from young women? What lessons could the book’s cross-national review of youth participation hold for practitioners, politicians and researchers? The author argues that youth involvement in politics goes beyond mainstream party politics, into engaging with broader socio-political issues. She further cautions against ignoring or dismissing this, and calls for acknowledgement of the new forms and priorities of youth political engagement.      

Professor Jacqueline (Jacqui) Briggs is Head of the School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Lincoln.  

Photo: Andrew Moss/Flickr/cc

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