Young people across Britain are twice as likely as others not to be registered to vote in the European Union referendum, new research suggests.
With the deadline to register to vote in the referendum looming on 7 June and the referendum on 23 June, the under-registration of young people could be the Leave camp’s secret weapon.
Polls consistently show older people are significantly more in favour of leaving the EU, compared to younger people who are significantly more happy to stay in.
The organisation Bite The Ballot says that around 30 per cent of young people aged 18-24 are not on the electoral register – nearly twice as many as the general population.
Additionally, of those on the electoral register at the May 2015 general election only 54 per cent voted, significantly lower than other age groups.
The nature of the debate could be responsible for the low levels of registration. Around half of young people – 45 per cent – told pollsters YouGov the debate resembled a “group of old men shouting at each other”.
Thousands of names have dropped off the electoral register due to the Government’s switch to Individual Electoral Registration – which scraps the old list.
Young people are particularly likely to have been booted off because they tend to change address often and have less data to identify them with in the Government’s efforts to reconstruct the list again.
Additionally, the Independent reported in October that the IER switch meant the twice as many people were falling off electoral lists in poorer areas as richest ones.
There were widespread anecdotal reports at the recent local elections of young people living in private rented housing turning up to vote and finding that they had not been registered – even if they had been at the general election.
Mike Sani, director of Bite The Ballot, said: “With as many as 7.5 million people currently not on the register, the majority from communities furthest away from politics, we need to act now to ensure that those unregistered are empowered and inspired to take a role in the decision-making process,” he said.
“This is a decision that affects everyone.”
Nick Lowles, chief executive of HOPE not hate, said: “This is a once in a generation opportunity for young people to directly decide the future of the country.
“It’s vital they get registered, but also vital for both Remain and Leave campaigns to address the concerns of the young far more directly. We know that if they don’t, and the voices of the young are not heard, disaffection can breed alienation.
“That in turn can act as a potent lure for extremists and others who would divide society.”
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