British students gear up for election
The fall in young voter turnout in the UK has been blamed for everything from Brexit to a possible Tory landslide at the June election. Students at University of Nottingham explain why they care more about some issues than any generation in history.
Produced by Mehreen Khan. Filmed by Charlie Bibby. Edited by Filip Fortuna.
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Young voter turnout out in the UK is at a 50-year low and falling. We've come to Nottingham-- a town of 25,000 students-- to find out if apathy is real or if modern political parties just don't speak to the youth of today.
Michael Millar, a first-year politics undergraduate at Nottingham University, is among those rallying the student vote on campus ahead of the June 8 election. A campaign manager for the local labour party, Michael thinks the stereotype of student apathy is not true of his campus.
Young people are probably the most enthusiastic of any age group. If we think about the kind of times we've been growing up in, in the aftermath of the financial crisis, the whole news has been dominated by debates about politics. And although students might tend to be underrepresented when it comes to actually voting, in terms of their enthusiasm, it's still significantly there.
Young voter turnout in the UK is falling. Having held [INAUDIBLE] steady around 65% for a quarter of the century between 1975 and 1990, the proportion of 18- to 24-year-olds turning out for general elections fell to just above 40% in 2015. According to some estimates, it was as low as just 33% for the Brexit referendum last year-- an issue where more pro-EU young voters could have swayed the result. By contrast, turnout among every other age group was up from 2015 in the June vote.
I voted in last summer's referendum. I voted remain. But a lot of us-- a lot of students-- didn't actually vote. So I think that because a lot of politicians just expected that, they didn't cater their campaigning points and their talking points towards students in particular. So a lot of us weren't really energised to vote because our issues important to us weren't really voiced.
The nature of this summer's campaign, dominated by issues such as nationalisation of rail services, also risks alienating young voters, according to Oliver Daddow, professor of British politics at Nottingham University.
There is a strong sense that the press and politicians talk past younger voters rather than to them, and when they do talk to them, they patronise them. And one of the best examples of talking past younger voters is a constant frame of-- this election is a rerun of the '70s or the '80s. If you constantly have those as your front-page headlines every day on mass media-- which goes around social media-- many young people who don't have the luxury or the privilege of studying politics or having engaged with it to any great extent at school will not understand the core issues that are animating that story and will disengage.
With young voters and students more likely to vote for Labour over any other party, opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has been rallying the student vote ahead of the deadline for registration this week.
I think Jeremy Corbyn has a lot to give. I think he can be an amazing prime minister. But I think the way he's betrayed in media and the way that the narrative has been negative towards him has made him be viewed in a negative light.
The small things that he says to us-- obviously, cutting tuition fees, things like that-- it's a lot more to our demographic, versus stuff like-- I don't know-- Theresa May says stuff to an older demographic, which voted for Brexit. Which I believe is why it happened, because it was the older demographic that had more of a say than the younger ones. But I think we realise from Brexit that if the younger people really want a say in what's going to happen, we're going to have to vote.
But despite high levels of engagement, a number of technical issues could also keep down the student turnout this year. The June election will be falling outside term-time for many students.
Exam timetables really do depress the vote, I think. I mean, people don't know that you can register in your home constituency and your term-time constituency, for example. And some people are unsure about how to get postal votes. And those kind of things, I think, need to be publicised a lot more, because there are a lot of students out there that want to vote, but just don't really understand how easy it is to register.
For all the talk of student disengagement, some young people are more motivated by issues than traditional party politics.
I think after Brexit, it shook people up. If you don't vote and if you don't participate, your voice will not be heard. So I think this general election, there's going to be a massive increase in people our age participating and voting. And I really hope the turnout is positive.
Mehreen Khan, "Financial Times," Nottingham.