As the “most mistrusted category of persons in the perceptions of young people” (Hay, 2010), the reputation of politicians creates substantial reluctance within the young to engage in any form of political activity.
We do play a part in the political system
With the average age of politicians who sit in the House of Commons at 50 and with over 90% educated to degree level and above, it is hardly surprising that vast amounts of young people feel alienated from their representatives. We feel that politicians don’t prioritise us, the young.
But the truth is, the youngest voters in our society are the hardest to reach. We all push back against politicians because we struggle to relate to them. They aren’t cool and we certainly wouldn’t want to see their #ootd on Instagram.
We assume they don’t care about our opinions because we’re young and not so worldly-wise and we accuse them of ‘not bothering’ to attempt to connect with us.
And yet we, as the young generation, can be accused of exactly the same. We do not bother to make ourselves reachable. We cut our strings from that world and we write politics off as an adult-centric domain in which we do not wish to interfere.
But the truth is that we do have our part in the political system. With only half of the 18 – 24 year olds showing up to vote at the 2010 election and an even more embarrassing rate of over 60% no-show at the one in 2005, are we not just proving their thought-processes right in that they should not bother with us? Just imagine the voice 18 -24 year olds could have if we doubled our efforts.
A unique position in society
Young people hold a unique position in society whereby we have the potential to change established social and political norms, and to mitigate the tensions that often manifest themselves in the void between generations. But we need to fight the ‘uncool’ stigma attached to politics. We need to realise that if we want to change things that matter to us in our societies, we can have the power to do so within the democratic processes that are offered to us.
We need to find out what the parties are offering to us, place our votes based on the policies of the parties (not on the way their leaders eat a sandwich), and contribute to the government who is endowed with the task of making our lives better for the next five years.
I turned to Vote for Policies, a voter advice tool, for more information on what the parties stand for. I liked the survey because it presented the actual policies of all the main contenders and asked you to choose based on the real policy sets. I had to compare them myself and began to really think about where I stood, and for the first time, I knew what my options were.
Put aside your feelings of disdain for politicians and take your place in our society. The 2015 General Election is the perfect time to start proving people wrong about our generation.
Alicia is a volunteer at Vote For Policies