Young voters lack political representation says Keiran Pedley. So who is going to step up?
One of the topics discussed on the latest PB/Polling Matters podcast was the striking difference in views on Brexit by age.
This week saw the first political poll by my company (GfK) for 12 years. One of the questions we asked was whether Brits thought Brexit was the “right decision” or the “wrong decision”. The results can be found in the chart below.
Table 1: Brexit: Right decision / wrong decision (by age)
Our poll this week got most attention for the finding that showed Jeremy Corbyn’s approval rating as low as Donald Trump’s but in my opinion this chart is more important. What it shows is a huge difference in opinion on the future of the country by age. For example, 55% of those aged 18-24 think Brexit was the “wrong decision” whereas 59% of those aged 65 and above think it was the “right decision”.
Brexit is not the only issue that divides Brits by age. Younger Brits also seem to be much more negative about the economic prospects of the country too. Here are some numbers from the same poll looking at economic optimism overall and by age. Once again, the differences are striking.
Based on these numbers, it seems that if you are aged 55 and over you are reasonably confident about the economic future of the country and the country’s future more generally. For younger voters the story is very different. It isn’t hard to see why. With wage growth frustratingly weak, tuition fees and rents rising and the property ladder a distant dream for many in their 20s, there is little to be particular optimistic about for millennials post Brexit. Or at least, for many it will feel that way. That’s before we even touch what the retirement age for the average 25 year old is likely to be.
The question is will this frustration manifest itself politically or will it just breed more apathy?
It seems to me that there is an opportunity for a politician or political party to develop a platform for government based on the idea that younger voters have it tough and that needs to change. Many will dismiss this idea for the obvious reason that younger people are much less likely to vote than older people. This is true. But those younger people have parents and grandparents. Perhaps one way the centre-left can reinvigorate itself in Britain is to make inter-generational inequality the centrepiece of its revival, appealing to older voters that their children’s and grandchildren’s futures are at stake if action isn’t taken. It’ll take guts but it is worth a try. Plus, it is also the right thing to do.
So over to you Jeremy Corbyn and Labour. If the British left is going to go down in flames, it might as well do so fighting on behalf of a cause worth fighting for. Or if you won’t, maybe the Lib Dems will. Let’s wait and see.
Keiran Pedley tweets about public opinion and politics at @keiranpedley and is the presenter of the ‘Polling Matters’ podcast. Listen to the latest episode on Brexit and Scotland below.