Richard Branson calls for voting age to be lowered to 16 in wake of Brexit

Virgin boss claims teenagers have ended up on the 'right side of history' time and time again 

Olivia Blair
Tuesday 28 June 2016 09:25 BST
Richard Branson would like another referendum

Sir Richard Branson has called for the voting age to be lowered to 16 following the UK’s vote for a Brexit, arguing throughout history young people have repeatedly been proven to be right.

Sir Richard has been staunchly pro-EU throughout the campaign and on Monday urged Parliament to reconsider leaving the European Union following calls and petitions for a second referendum.

In just a few days since the results were confirmed, the Virgin founder claimed the prospect of Brexit had "fractured the country more than any other event in recent memory".

In a blog post shared on Tuesday morning, Sir Richard acknowledged the typical differentiating voting trends between the older and younger generations.

“While democracy is based on the popular vote, we should not dismiss the voices and pleas of those that end up on the other side of the verdict – especially in this case, as young people will be most affected by the decision, moving forward,” he wrote.

The 65-year-old then suggested the voting age be lowered to 16, disputing the belief held by some that the young are too ill-equipped to vote because, he argues, they have often ended up being “on the right side of history”. He also proposed that, thanks to social media, young people are more “interested, motivated and informed” than ever before.

“The opinions of the young are often cast aside, with claims that they are selfish, unknowing and ill-equipped to make important choices. This couldn’t be further from the truth,” he wrote. “By 16-years-old I’d left school to run my own business, student magazine, and together with thousands of other young people organised big and powerful marches to protest the Vietnam War. History proved us right, and many of the adults of the day wrong. Today the young are once again on the right side of history.”

Sir Richard concluded his post by summarising young people “should have a greater steer in making decisions about the future” given that they will be the leaders of the future.

73 per cent of 18-24 year old’s voted for Britain to remain in the EU in the historic referendum which took place last Thursday, compared to 27 per cent who voted to leave. In stark contrast, 60 per cent of over 65s voted to Leave while 40 per cent voted to Remain. Ultimately, the Leave campaign clinched victory with 52 per cent of the vote.

Estimates on how 16 and 17-year-olds hypothetically may have voted vary but it’s roundly deemed it would have been a clear majority vote for Remain. On the day of the referendum, a YouGov poll estimated 75 per cent would have voted to Remain while The Student Room placed that figure higher at 82 per cent.

In 2014, 16 and 17-year-olds were given the vote in the Scottish independence referendum, with 100,000 turning out at the polls. While turnout by age groups is not officially known for the EU referendum, there have been suggestions it was the lowest for the 18-24 category with some estimates placing that figure at 36 per cent. In areas across the UK with a high youth population, turnout was lower.

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