The kids aren’t all right (politically, anyway)

Voters at a polling booth on Alice Springs. Photo from the Australian Electoral Commission. 2dec2016
Voters at a polling booth on Alice Springs. Photo from the Australian Electoral Commission.

First there was the Australian election, then there was Brexit and most recently President-elect Trump. Thanks for nothing, Millennials.

All three events this year shared one thing in common other than the victorious side being led by some old man out of touch with society – poor youth voter turnouts. It seems people my age are so disillusioned with politics they just can’t be arsed to vote.

But why? Why is it that up to half of the 18-year-olds in Australia simply didn’t enrol to vote? Why did only 64 per cent of youth in Britain decide to vote on Brexit compared with 90 per cent of people aged 65-plus? Why was there only an estimated 50 per cent total turnout for the youth of America? (Forget the fact that up to 2 million people opted for a third party or scribbled in an illegitimate name, like Harambe. That’s right, 11,000 people voted for Harambe. People would rather vote for a meme than a real-life candidate. Let that sink in for a moment.

Why should we consider a 60 per cent youth voter turnout good when 40 per cent are going without their voices heard?

#Goals: from ALP Spicy Meme Stash

As that “weird kid” that loves politics and all the bells and whistles that come with it, it’s pretty disturbing to hear that people don’t want to vote because they can’t be bothered. Sure, maybe your vote won’t matter in the end, maybe the candidates aren’t exactly your cup of tea but, maybe, just maybe, enough young voters think the same thing and suddenly a massive chunk of the youth vote disappears as young adults just don’t see the point in showing up.

We already know where that leads us. Look no further than our current federal parliament: Malcolm Turnbull and four One Nation senators.

I get it, sometimes it’s pretty difficult to wrap your head around why Pauline Hanson, a faded ex-fish and chip shop owner, thinks she’s an expert on what it’s like to be Aboriginal. “Why should this woman speak for me?” you ask. You feel yourself drifting away because well, who the hell does she think she is? But the beautiful thing about politics is you can kick them out! It really is that simple. Don’t like them? Don’t vote for them and vote for a good guy (or someone who aligns with your views) like Paul Keating. If only Paul Keating were still in the game. God, I wish Paul Keating was still in the game. What a man.

But aside from my intense crush on Keating, you have the power to vote and change things according to your view. That’s an amazing power there. There are always going to be people out there who share your views, and the case often is that we young’uns have a tendency to be very left-minded people. We have a terrifying power in that we can swing entire elections if we just show up. Voter studies in the US after that nightmare of an election showed that if 18-25-year-olds had alone been eligible to vote, Hillary Clinton would be President-elect by a landslide. If more of us had voted in Australia instead of doodling on the ballot papers maybe Bill Shorten would be our Prime Minister.

But then we arrive at Brexit.

Youth voters were overwhelmingly in favour of Britain staying in Europe (about three quarters of voters aged 18-24 voted remain). Of course we know the result now, but imagine if 90 per cent (rather than 64 per cent) of the young population showed up? What if each youth had been properly informed? I saw several young adults making comments on social media about how they had voted leave, believing the UK would be better for it, without knowing what the European Union did and the pros and cons of leaving it. They had no idea. That is extremely troubling.

Since then we’ve seen several key promises by parties which pushed for Brexit being broken. The most famous of those was UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage’s backdown on putting funds into the National Health Scheme.

A vote should be an informed decision; you should understand at least a little about competing policies to avoid accidentally casting your ballot in favour of something that sounds all right but in fact isn’t. The Liberal democrats are a pretty good example of that. But hey, if you read a party’s policies and like what they have to say, vote for them, I won’t judge. We need more voices and varied opinions in our political climate. But if I had a dollar for each uninformed vote and people who vote for Mike Baird because “he’s just a really good bloke, hey?” I’d have enough money to buy up the entire Sydney housing market and lock you and your children out of it forever (as if you weren’t already locked out).

Just try to stay clear of the dark side: from President Palpatine’s twitter feed.

The major point is you need to be just a little bit involved. It’s a wonderful privilege to live in a society where we can access any amount of information on party policy and political issues. Unsure about something? It’s only a quick Google search away (or Bing if you swing that way). Then you can study that info and take it with you to the polling booths. Once you’re informed you’re in a prime position to bring about a new era of change for Australia. Or America and Britain. Wherever you wind up really.

It is amazingly easy to access relevant information. Look no further than sites like Junkee or Buzzfeed; they are fantastic for breaking down serious political issues and all that goes down in Canberra and abroad. Social media is also good for this, though I cannot stress enough that you need to look beyond your Facebook feed and read as widely and diversely as possible. You’ll be a lot better off if you grasp the opposing argument as well.

Don’t let the older demographic speak for you; get out there and vote. Help boost those numbers and encourage people your age to do something.

You can sit at home and think not voting is some cool fresh way to protest or some shit but nothing is going to make a pollie sweat more than a sudden shift in youth voter attitudes and growing numbers of votes against them. But the older generation sometimes do offer nuggets of wisdom.

John Farnham offers an extremely relevant message: “You’re the voice.”

For Christ’s sake try to understand that. – Matthew Buchanan

About Matthew Buchanan 25 Articles
Matthew is a budding journalist and complete sports nut with a healthy appreciation for politics and history.