EU referendum: UK result would have been Remain had votes been allowed at 16, survey finds

Young people questioning why votes at 16 were allowed in the 2014 Scottish referendum 

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The Independent Online

Had 16 and 17-year-olds been allowed to vote, as with the Scottish referendum in 2014, the UK would have awoken to an entirely different result on Friday morning, a new survey has revealed.

Online wiki and forum The Student Room conducted a poll - on the day the Brexit result was revealed - to find 82 per cent* of voters in the age group vote Remain.

With 1.46 million 16 and 17-year-olds in the UK - and with that 82 per cent voting Remain - the number would have matched the 1.2 million difference between Out and In, potentially changing the result completely.

Seventy-five per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds voted to Remain in the EU on Thursday, meaning the Leave result was largely swung by the over-60s demographic. But The Student Room’s poll has shown young people clearly wanted to stay united with the EU, begging the question: should the voting age be lowered? 

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Jack Wallington, community director at The Student Room, described it as being “unacceptable” that such a large number of the younger generation were ignored, despite being legally able to work full-time and “consent to sex as adults.” 

He said: “They are the people who will live with the result decided for them the longest.  If the voting age had been lowered to 16, there could have been a very different outcome today.

“As per the Scottish referendum in 2015, where the voting age was lowered for 16 and 17-year-olds, we believe the UK should have done the same. Views of our younger generations cannot be overlooked when the impact is to so disproportionately affect them.

“The time has come to seriously discuss the age of voters in the UK and the result of this week's referendum.”

One young respondent told the survey: “Its very frustrating for me as a 17-year-old to see decisions being made by people who will, no doubt, die within the next ten years while I am unable to have a say. The future belongs to us, the youth.”

Another said: “I think people seriously underestimate 16-year-olds and their capabilities. Sixteen is when we complete core secondary education, when we can work, and contribute taxes, and take on more responsibilities.”

“My entire family voted Out but, if I had the chance, I would have voted In. I really think if they [the campaigns] gave young people the education about the referendum, then the result could have almost definitely gone the other way,” added another disgruntled respondent.

Wallington concluded: “We predict the UK will return to the EU within 20 years when younger generations are of a legal age to vote and outnumber older voters. If it was down to them, the country would vote Remain. Young people have a right to vote and shape their own futures.”

*The Student Room polled 1,200 students on 24/06/16