Voting should be compulsory for young people at least once, says think tank

Compelling young  people to participate would forge lifetime habits, IPPR suggests

Voting should be made compulsory for young people casting their ballots for the first time, a leading think-tank says. Under plans to improve electoral participation, the Institute for Public Policy Research suggests that first-time voters should be required to go to the polling station and vote, or face a small fine.

But under its proposal all ballot papers would include a “none of the above” option, addressing the issue of being forced to vote when none of the candidates is acceptable.

The organisation, which was recently commissioned by ministers to put forward plans for civil service reform, has previously recommended that voting should be made compulsory – as is already the case in Australia. But in its latest report, released today, they suggest that simply imposing voting on first-time members of the electorate would have a significant impact on turn-out and representation. People who vote in the first election they are eligible for are much more likely to continue voting throughout their lives.

The IPPR argues that such a move would not only increase the participation rate of young people in democracy but would ensure that political parties paid more attention to the concerns of young people when devising policy.

It points out that recent spending cuts have disproportionately affected young people, with 16-to-24-year-olds facing cuts to services worth 28 per cent of their annual household income, compared with 10 per cent of the income of those aged 55-74.

Overall, those who did not vote in the 2010 general election faced cuts worth 20 per cent of their annual household income, compared with 12 per cent of those who did vote.

Britain has one of Europe’s widest gaps in voter turnout between young er and older people. The turnout rate for individuals under 35 earning less than £10,000 a year is just 34 per cent, whereas the turnout rate for people over 55 and earning at least £40,000 a year is 79 per cent. In the 2010 general election only 44 per cent of 18-to-24-year-olds voted, compared with 76 per cent of those aged 65 and over.

Guy Lodge, an IPPR associate director and one of the report’s authors, said unequal turnout mattered because it gave older and more affluent voters disproportionate influence at the ballot box.

“Young people who don’t vote today are less likely than previous generations to develop the habit of voting as they get older, which is why first-time compulsory voting is so important,” he said.

“Unequal turnout unleashes a vicious cycle of disaffection and under-representation. As policy becomes less responsive to their interests, more and more decide that politics has little to say to them.”

Sarah Birch, a Professor of Politics at the University of Essex, said: “Unless radical action is taken, turnout inequalities in Britain will grow wider. First-time compulsory voting could well be very effective in engaging young people in politics. There are many other things that young people are required to do, not the least of which is go to school.

“Adding just one more small task to this list would not represent an undue burden, and it could well help to reinvigorate democracy. It would make politicians target first-time voters like never before and give young voters the potential for far greater political power.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
News
David Ryall in Harry Potter
people
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
Wayne Rooney warms up ahead of the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at White Hart Lane
football
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
filmIdris Elba responds to James Bond rumours on Twitter
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have previous experience...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015