Why sustainability will be key for young voters in the 2017 General Election
The British Parliament has been officially dissolved before the General Election on June 8. However, voting registration levels amongst young people are low - again. A recent poll suggests that in the UK, less than a third of 18-24 year olds are registered to vote. Why is this?
If you remember, in the last general elections, only 41% (around 1.4 million people) said they would definitely cast their ballot which left some two million young people who wouldn’t vote at all acceding to research by YouGov for British Future. Why was this? According to the report, young people think politicians don’t understand the issues that matter most to them.
This being the case, a key thing that that needs to happen is to make politics more inclusive in order to win the vote of Britain’s young people. And the secret to driving this is for parties to talk about the issues that matter most to young people in order that they are encouraged and motivated to vote. And that means action about sustainability and related issues.
But what does sustainability really mean to young voters?
As a sustainably consult, I this means addressing the following five issues which the young voting demographic frequently highlights as their top concerns:-
1) Cost of living
2) Affordable housing
3) Unemployment and access to work
4) The gap between rich and the poor
5) The environment and pollution levels
Now, the Government regularly says that it is already addressing many of these issues, but unfortunately in its latest report published on 25 April, the cross-party Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) accused the government of having done little to promote SDGs domestically and for failing to raise public awareness of them.
As Mary Creagh, chair of the Committee, said: “During this general election campaign, politicians of all parties should show their commitment to ending poverty, violence and hunger here in the UK, so that we can build a ‘global Britain’ where no one is left behind.”
Creagh has highlighted some the issues that matter most to the millennial voters and those which carry the most significant weight, but it is essential for the next government to understand what sustainability means for the young voters in order to respond to them, otherwise there is a serious danger that this will become self-perpetuating: the less the young vote, the more politicians will feel they can ignore them without risk of being punished at the ballot box. And the less politics has to offer to the young voter, the less they are likely to vote.
I think many people would hate for Britain to turn into a pseudo gerontocracy where the political classes honour the interests of the old over investing in the young. There is a lot of evidence saying if people don’t get into the voting habit when young, they risk never doing so.
Consequently, this risks the threat low turnouts at elections and governments with less and fewer claims to have a proper mandate from the people to deliver change. Everyone would lose out in this case, irrespective of their demographic. And that’s precisely why knowing exactly what young voters want and what sustainability means, is so important for politicians at this election.