REDCAR, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 23: A man walks into a polling station at Marske Methodist church as voters head to the polls to cast their vote on the EU Referendum on June 23, 2016 in Redcar, United Kingdom. The United Kingdom has gone to the polls to decide whether or not the country wishes to remain within the European Union. After a hard fought campaign from both REMAIN and LEAVE the vote is too close to call. A result on the referendum is expected on Friday morning. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
© Getty

In the post-vote haze of June 24, a comment popped up on from reader Nicholas Barrett on, in his words, the three tragedies of the leave vote. Among them was this: “Freedom of movement was taken away by our parents, uncles, and grandparents in a parting blow to a generation that was already drowning in the debts of our predecessors.” The comment took on a life of its own on social media and across news sites, and the Financial Times promptly commissioned Mr Barrett to expand his thoughts into a piece.

In the comments below, and across, a rowdy debate has begun. The most common refrain comes from older readers blaming the young for their iPhone-addled apathy — 36 per cent of 18-24-year-olds voted, according to one poll, versus 83 per cent of the over-65s. But more illuminating are the comments from millennials reflecting on the root cause: Why did they turn out in such small numbers? What could have made them vote more? How do they feel about the outcome? And what can these generations learn from each other?

Here are the best FT reader comments that reflect on this intergenerational divide.


Why I didn’t vote

“My father-in-law told me that he sat in the hairdresser's and none of the young staff were planning to vote. The reason was very simple: they were fed up with a campaign of personal insults and misinformation. They had no idea what the real facts were and were struggling to understand the choice they were actually being asked to make. I don’t agree with this approach (I voted) but I do sympathise. Ultimately, if you don’t know what the best option is, is it better to vote wrongly?” —Average Josephine

"Have you considered that actually many of these younger people were at work on the day of the vote and any number of reasons made it harder to vote than the over-65s, who are predominantly retired and have the whole day to get themselves down to the polling station? Or that younger people have had to endure years of a squeeze on their incomes through government policies and have become severely disillusioned with the political class as a whole?" Kurtosis

“Voting is meaningless. I consider myself pretty informed, but who do I vote for in order to see a real decrease in the cost of a home, or rent? Who do I vote for to reduce my student loan interest? Who do I vote for if I would like interest rates to rise a bit so saving actually makes some sense? This is what the UK has become, two old wolves voting to eat the sheep for dinner, and then blaming the sheep for not voting against it." Lad On Tour

The digital debate

"Millennials, unlike myself, are digital natives. I suspect that the idea of receiving a voting card, finding your voting station and using a pencil to vote seems slightly anachronistic in the digital age. A postal vote? I didn’t realise people still used anything but email except when a parcel is involved. I believe voting is a duty, but I also believe that the voting process is archaic, expensive, delays the result and revolves around place rather than issues being voted on. It is in need of a serious overhaul. Digital voting is a must to ensure an inclusive and extensive electorate.” Tony Fry

“As I was entering the grounds of church where the voting was taking place I passed a (very) elderly gentleman slowly nudging forward with his Zimmer frame, also on his way to vote. He was still making his way towards the church door by the time I was leaving. Sure, he had all day to achieve what he wanted to do, but it looked like one herculean task just to cast a vote. I’m sure that this chap would have appreciated a voting app as well so he could have stayed at home and rested, but it looked like only the Grim Reaper, not something as weak as logistics, could stop him from putting an ‘X’ in a box that day. I have no idea which way he voted, but he voted.” GeoffWilliams

I don’t recognise my home

"[I am] an early-30s Remain voter. Since Friday, I can’t help but feel like an embarrassed teenager whose grumpy, slightly drunk father is ranting to their friends about ‘those bloody foreigners’ and ‘in my time . . .’. For the first time, I cringe at having to call myself English. We will see where negotiations take us, but I believe the Leave campaign now has an even bigger battle ahead of it than our immediate economic future. Not just to build a semblance of hope for those with the majority of their working lives ahead of them, but to prove that being English (as opposed to Scottish, Northern Irish or Gibraltarian) is something we can be proud of again.” tornado

“I am a millennial who emigrated in 2013. I have worked my rear end off to make the move stick and have been rewarded. Those who feel disenchanted should take a long look at themselves before blaming Europe for their woes. I flew back to the UK on Friday to gauge opinion, and frankly, the stability I enjoy here in Germany in comparison to the appalling democracy being perpetrated in the UK made me race back to Heathrow to flee the heartlands of a country I can barely recognise. The deflection of blame and the expectation of gaining something for nothing seem to have become the national pastime.” Russ Brown

We could have done more

“I’m 22, and feel pretty bitter towards my peers. The elderly were selfish, but we were apathetic. I have spoken to many young people who express their rage, but when asked whether they voted, come out with some poor excuse. It’s really disappointing.” JamesSteyn

“As someone who fits the above profile of a Remain under-30 I have gone through the same frustrations over the weekend. But this is a democracy. Fool my generation for not voting in sufficient numbers, good on the older generation for appreciating the importance of political engagement and voting. I have worked in EU countries and my business is heavily dependent on EU trade and grants, but the real angst I felt was in the message we have sent to Europe. What we have done can only be understood as a hostile, back-turning gesture of self-importance, that we now have to live out in a slow-motion wrangle. The only crumb of comfort I can take is that my generation will be leading the charge in 20-30 years time to inevitably come back to Europe’s embrace. Enter the euro? Join Schengen? After the last seven days of politics, we can see that nothing, ever, can truly be ruled out." FarmerGeoff

A plea from your elders

"Us older generations do care about your futures, very much. Which is why we ask you to vote. Please vote! We pay for 41,000 polling stations — more than the USA. You probably don't know this, but when you get issued with a Ballot Paper you're ticked off on a register to ensure you only vote once. That 'marked register' is available to politicians and commercial people like Experian who compile 'calling lists' for canvassers and others. If you don't vote, we know. Us wrinklies get generous handouts from politicians because they know we vote. Your generation are much less likely to vote. If you were a politician, who would you favour? Think about it." Leftie

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2023. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window) CommentsJump to comments section

Follow the topics in this article