Mark Donne: Young voters are much more discerning than you think

The biggest off-put seems to be the arena itself and the cosiness of the club

Share
Related Topics

The attitude of young voters towards politics and the coming election may be a mass of contradictory colour, but it is not without definite outline.

On the surface, this demographic of, roughly speaking, 18-25s might seem a lost cause. Generational affiliations to Labour or the Tories have faded as quickly as the values traditionally associated with either party, and research by the Hansard Society suggests well over half of 18 to 24-year-olds may not be registered to vote at all.

In 2005, 60 per cent of the country inked the power-giving box, but only 37 per cent of 18-25s made the effort. Often despaired of as the turbo-consuming, piratical downloading, Google-searching have it alls, uninterested in national or global affairs, these young people have been patronised by the parties with Notting Hill Carnival baseball cap photo-ops and text messages promising unlimited drinking hours.

Such a misguided assumption – as pollsters and wonks from all the major political parties now realise and fear – is streets away from the truth. With almost 70 per cent enjoying daily online engagement, this vast shoal is by far the largest demographic group to suck in information and regularly share it. And a new study conducted by the Instigate Debate project – a cultural collective of musicians and writers looking to galvanise youth interest in current affairs, of which I am part – shows that political disaffection may be a consequence of well-informed opinion, rather than a lack of it.

The biggest off-put for young voters seems to be the arena itself and the cosiness of the club – that is, a belief in the unhindered ability of corporate media and corporate lobbying monoliths to terrify and bribe would-be governments, to the extent that actually entering high office is seen as a walk-on part in a horribly predictable farce.

Positively, 80 per cent of online respondents to our survey declared an in-principle intention to vote, but when asked about feelings towards the political class and workings of state, one single element proved not only poisonous enough to deter this critical act, but also persuaded many from any kind of civic or political engagement at all. Some 71 per cent cited "large corporations" as the most negative effect on life in the UK – this was up against options such as immigration or crime – and most disconcertingly, 80 per cent said the government of the day, of any colour or stripe, is most greatly influenced in policy direction by corporate power; ahead of choices such as the personal convictions of party leaders or the desires of the electorate.

Not all, but a significant section, of these all-consuming, logo-kitted, lifestyle-conscious individuals are feeling the attrition of 360 degree market-branding and targeted advertising. They are tolerating but also rejecting mass media and "savvy" product associations, and are seeking out something which suggests integrity to them. They are receptive to the single issue, more exotic clarion calls of NGOs because they do not perceive a vested interest.

The attitude of younger and first-time voters may not quite reunite them with the loftier, radical aspirations of their parents' youth, but it is unquestionable that they want to see a fairer, greener world. A study by Nuffield General Election Studies showed that if only the votes of young people were counted, Labour would have won every election in the past 40 years. But a new mistrust of the avaricious branch of the New Labour project will make young voter behaviour more volatile than ever.

Too many are put off by the queasy intimacy of politics and trans-national dominance. Neither the Tories nor the Liberal Democrats seem more ready to deal with this unedifying equation with the necessary teeth. So is the political party over, or can the main parties forge a new covenant of trust, unpolluted by corporate interest, or self-interest? The mechanisms of British politics and the regulations around influence upon its practitioner must change, and fast.

The next six years, not six electioneering weeks, will show whether it can, and whether the Facebook generation likes it.

The Independent and Instigate Debate launch "Is the Party Over" debates and live events today

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior IP Opportunity at Major Firm

vary Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - AN OPENING AT A VERY HIGH Q...

Nursery Manager

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Nursery Manager Long term Ran...

Sales Consultant – Permanent – West Sussex – £24-£25k plus commission and other benefits

£24000 - £25000 Per Annum plus company car and commission: Clearwater People S...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£45 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply SEN Support Jobs in Bris...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Liberal Democrats leader says efforts need to be focused on cracking down on the criminal gangs  

Nick Clegg: We should to go to war on drugs, not on addicts

Nick Clegg
East German border guards stand on a section of the Berlin wall in front of the Brandenburg gate on November 11, 1989  

Twenty-five years after the Berlin Wall fell, Hungary’s PM thinks it is Western capitalism that is in its death throes

Peter Popham
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes