The highly negative youth voter turnout in EP elections and the reluctance people aged 18 to 24 have shown in participating in political life and exercising their right to vote is very alarming. The 2009 elections are particularly relevant regarding this constantly decreasing (33% in 2004 and 29% in 2009) youth participation trend. “The time has come for a change” seems to be the message the participants in a European Commission survey want to send to the European society as 64% of the respondents aged between 15 and 30 intend to vote in the 2014 elections.
Profile and motivations of the young voter
The results of the abovementioned survey come as no surprise: the young European who is most likely to vote in 2014 is or has been involved in a youth, cultural or sports organisation. These respondents tend to be interested in politics in general and, particularly, in the electoral process. Furthermore, the Commission discovered that the motivations influencing young persons’ intention to vote vary significantly. 94% of the respondents declared that if they were to vote in 2014 they would do it because they believed democracy was important. More interestingly, only 68% of the respondents consider that voting at the European elections has an impact on the problems that concern them. As for the reasons which deter European youth from voting, 64% said that if they didn’t vote it would be because they believed their vote would not change anything, whereas 18% of those not likely to vote in the 2014 elections described themselves as being “against the EU”.
“Y vote 2014”
On 4th of June this year AEGEE-Europe (a European Students’ Forum) launched the “Y vote 2014” project aiming at developing the political education of young people and thus ensuring they will make a fully informed vote in next year’s elections. Consisting of several activities such as the creation of a voting guide, the organisation of bus tours and youth conventions, this initiative is meant to raise awareness among young Europeans about the upcoming elections and persuade them into making a choice and expressing their preference for the future of Europe. In her speech at the launch of this initiative, MEP Eider Gardiazabal Rubial (S&D, Spain) emphasised the importance of standing up for one’s beliefs and bringing the EU closer to its citizens, but more importantly, closer to its young citizens. These kinds of projects are essential in reversing the current trend in electoral participation and avoiding the predicted continued decline in turnout at EP elections such as the one highlighted by the Danish scholars Yosef Bhatti and Kasper Hansen.
The frustration of this “lost” generation of unemployed young people is very likely to send reverberations across the political landscape and the first occasion to do so at EU level are next year’s EP elections. There is no doubt that it will be worth paying attention to the youth vote as their current economic vulnerability may have a positive influence on their participation rate and possibly even a direct impact on the results of the vote.
For further reading:
The Effect of generation and age on turnout to the European Parliament – How turnout will continue to decline in the future / Yosef Bhatti, Kasper M. Hansen in Electoral Studies, vol. 31, 2012, pp. 262-272.
Citizens’ support for the European Union and participation in European Parliament elections / Daniel Stockemer in European Union Politics, 2012
Youth participation in democratic life / The Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency, 2013
Youth participation in EP elections / Piotr Bakowski, Library Briefing, 2011