Friday, 13 December 2013

Voice of the young- What are the issues that matter to young people?

Over the past couple of days, I have been doing a research project. I wanted to find out what issues matter to young people, as young people are the group that has been ruthlessly attacked the most under this government. I wanted to give a voice to the voiceless, and so I did a massive opinion poll. I spoke, in total, to 165 people between the ages of 16-25. 100 of them were from my College, which is an F.E college, and many people who come to study here are from other regions of the UK as well as the North West, the other 65 were people I know in other regions of the UK whom I had contacted via Facebook. Therefore, it gives a representative sample of the general feeling that young people around the UK have about the issues that concern them. So, without further ado, here are the results! First, I did a chart showing the issues that people mentioned:

As can be seen from this chart, the single most important issue for young people is the cost of living. This group of people tend to be the group where Labour support is strongest, as 60% of those who stated that they were struggling with the Cost of Living also said that they would vote for Labour at the next General Election. The majority of those who said that they were concerned about unemployment (75%) were either Dont knows or Non Voters, which suggests that they believe that neither of the two main parties has done enough to convince them that they will help with Youth Unemployment. Two of the biggest issues that matter to the wider adult community, Immigration and the Economy, take a backseat compared to economic issues whereas young people are concerned. Concern for immigration is strongest amongst UKIP and Conservative supporters, as all 3 of those who stated immigration was a problem said that they would vote either UKIP or Conservative. Educational reform is, unsurprisingly, very high up the list, considering that it has been all over the news as of late. Out of those who stated that education reform was a priority, almost all of those besides 2 people said they were still making up their minds as to which party they would vote for, and the other two were Liberal Democrat voters. Some of the issues mentioned under "Other" were things such as discrimination against ethnic minority groups such as Romanians and Bulgarians, mental health, infrastructure issues, issues with Porn Filters, MPs expenses, Student Loan privatisation, and concern about Law and Order and legal reform. People who state that young people do not have anything to say seem to have failed on this evidence. Young people are voters just like any other voters, and have a wide variety issues of their own which they are rightly concerned about. Now, look at the percentage support for political parties amongst younger voters:

       And therein lies the problem with getting people engaged with voting for political parties. The vast majority of younger people who either stated they would not vote or stated that they did not know who they would vote for at present said that they would make up their minds closer to the election, and another large majority also stated that they would not vote because they were disillusioned with all of the contemporary political parties. Many of those I asked also did not believe that politics could make a difference to their issues and that it could not solve their problems. Several of the undecideds stated that they were leaning towards the Labour Party, but wanted to see more policies specific to them and to young people before they decided to vote for Labour. For many of the 16-18 year old struggling with the cost of living, the greatest concern was that they would be in enourmous debt if/when they went to University because of the extraordinarily high Tuition Fees under this government. This evidence links with other evidence that suggests that young people will only vote for a party when an issue starts becoming a serious personal problem for them, as is consistent with figures that show that many people start voting when they have a family life or when they are working full time, or are University students. The voter apathy problem amongst younger people remains a big concern for all of those who believe in democracy, and is a challenge that must be solved by politicians. All of the mainstream parties, the Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems, and UKIP, have all had a lot to say about policies for the general election, but have completely ignored the young, the group that is being attacked the most, and needs help the most. Labour have had a lot to say about the Cost of Living crisis, and Energy Prices, but have been silent on tuition fees and Youth Unemployment, two massive challenges that we face as a nation. We must not allow a "Lost generation" of disillusioned young people become the norm. All politicians on all sides should come together to try and resolve what is turning into a crisis, and I plan to talk to the Labour Party MEP candidate for the North West, Afzal Khan, about some of these issues, as well as my Local MP Kate Green, as I believe that action from the top of the party is needed if we are to win back the trust of these young voters, or indeed win many of the undecided young voters over.

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