5th May 2017

Is Social Media Helping Young People Vote?

When the general election was called a few weeks ago, more than 100,000 people under the age of 25 registered to vote within three days. In comparison, the age group with the lowest sign-up rate over the same period was the over-75s. This spike in registrations was also seen with the local elections. So, is it the case that ‘young people’ previously disengaged with politics are now seeing the importance it plays in their lives?

One of the factors attributed to these spikes in registrations is social media, with the largest increase seen on the day that a Facebook reminder was issued. If you scroll through your feeds today there will, no doubt, be people posting their opinions about the local elections – happy, sad, or angry! Before the age of social media, where did people form their opinions? Most likely from their family, friends… I know I certainly wasn’t taught about politics, elections and their importance in school.  This tells us that social media has huge potential to be a force for good, introducing people to a world of different opinions. However, at the moment there is still quite a way to go… we did a straw poll on election day regarding the Greater Manchester mayoral elections, and found that, while people want to vote, they simply don’t know who to vote for, or why?

“I don’t think either one’s campaign has given me the information I need to make a truly informed decision. Hmm.”

I read the booklet that came through my door and they are all (literally) saying the same thing, so no idea who to vote for, to be honest.

So, while people understand the importance of politics, there is a clear mistrust and knowledge gap, which is echoed across the country. Young people may be happy to post their opinions on social media, but many don’t actually know who to vote for, or don’t believe their vote will make a difference, so simply don’t bother. There is, therefore, still a vital role for schools, colleges, universities to step up and educate young people, to help them understand how the British political system works, to help people make informed decisions about how to vote, who to vote for and why it’s important. We are a privileged nation with the right to vote, not every nation has this opportunity so it’s our duty to help our future generations realise its potential.

By Laura Weightman, Senior Digital Account Director