Not another election!

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HAVE YOU HEARD THE NEWS?! There's going to be another UK General Election!

Of course, you knew that already, unless you’ve been living under a rock.

But, just in case you have somehow missed this virtually unavoidable piece of news, let me fill you in. On Tuesday 18th April 2017, Theresa May, or TRESemmé as my mum enjoys calling her, announced a snap election that will take place on 8th June in a surprise statement outside Number 10.

“You’re joking? Not another one!”, cried Brenda from Bristol speaking to the BBC’s Jon Kay following the announcement. The nation was left stunned with many, like Brenda, equally as dismayed.

Nonetheless, there are many commentators that believe that this election matters much more than those previous. For one thing, it’s expected that, FOR ONCE, there might actually be some sort of policy divide between the main political big dogs. In fact, the Financial Times reckons it’ll be wider than at any other time in the past 30 years, largely due to hot topics like the Battle of Brexit, our over-stretched NHS and the housing crisis.

It’s safe to say there’ll be some stark choices to be made come June. The outcome of which will determine the future path of the UK, not just in the near future, but for many generations to come. And, speaking of generations, it is the much talked about, but mostly misunderstood, Millennials that could play an important role in June’s election.

Millennials are the young adults of today, born between 1980 and 2000 and, personally, my favourite of all the generations (largely because I am one of them). We are generally coined with a bad rep, albeit unsubstantiated, and there is no shortage of articles claiming that we are just a bunch of lazy, needy, deluded narcissists. Although, it is funny how most of these claims are made by 50-somethings, who are probably just cheesed off with their free-spirited, non-conventional millennial offspring but, hey ho, as long as our Insta followers like us then who cares.

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, Millennials and the election. In just 3 days after TRESemmé’s announcement, more than 100,000 people under the age of 25 and 99,106 people aged between 25 and 34 registered themselves to vote. Could this upsurge signal a change in the characteristically low turnout of young voters from previous years? After all, younger voters strongly backed remaining in the European Union by a margin of two to one in the referendum but, since then, have been left disappointed with the government’s plan for a much looser relationship with the EU. It is possible, then, that frustrated young people could play an important role in this election by voting for parties that will try to stop Brexit.

And, believe it or not, it’s not all about Brexit either. Let’s face it (warning: Baby Boomers, look away now), us Millennials haven’t exactly had it easy! We started our careers in the midst (or the aftermath) of the 2008 financial crisis. We’ve seen pretty much everything become more expensive, from tuition fees trebling to house prices skyrocketing. Home-ownership is becoming nothing more than a pipe dream. Oh, and we’re also the first generation for decades to earn less than our predecessors. With this in mind, many are speculating that Millennials are at their wits end, choosing to vote in opposition of the current government in order to halt these trends from continuing. Even traditionally minority parties are getting a look in, with the Green Party gaining from growing numbers of environmentally conscious young people and the Liberal Democrats creating interest with their more open attitudes towards the EU (although, there are still many that struggle to forget the tuition fees betrayal).

Even so, this still doesn’t mean that there’ll be a mad rush to the ballot boxes. In fact, it’s likely that many young voters still won’t make it there on voting day. Just look at the 2015 General Election, only 43 per cent of 18-24 year olds turned out to vote, compared with 78 per cent of over 65s. Voting isn’t really catered for Millenials, especially those who favour digital experiences over the physical. The current election process forces digital natives to act in a way that they wouldn’t usually in their normal, everyday lives. We are the generation that is highly tech savvy and super connected, intertwining both our physical and digital lives with ease through social networks and app-based technology. We expect to be able to carry out straightforward tasks, like casting a vote, to be online, saving our precious physical time for more significant, personal events. Sure, there’s the postal vote but, let’s be honest, many younger Millenials won’t have ever stepped foot in a Post Office before, except maybe to drop off their ASOS return. Even where the turnout of young people has been unusually high, as in the EU referendum, it still lagged well behind that of their elders. Why should the 2017 election be any different?

Maybe if we had better technology supporting the voting process, more Millenials would cast their vote on election day. Digital companies often design services, like call centres, to support non-digital people, so why hasn’t the government designed digital voting services for digital natives? It might sound like a ‘first world problem’ but the key to engaging more young people is meeting them in their own environment. 

Right now, all bets are on a Conservative result, with opinion polls very much in their favour. But who knows? Maybe there will be a stampede of angry young voters on election day that could potentially change this. Besides, opinion polls aren’t always that reliable, as we found out in both the EU Referendum and US Election last year. For this very reason, we made our own poll at SPARCK for both of these elections, using a tweet tracker which more accurately indicated a lean towards both a Leave result and a Trump win ahead of the votes. It is safe to say that this will be very interesting election, with many observers keeping a watchful eye on the behaviour of the, now much larger, pool of younger voters.

But, regardless of your political vibe, just get out there and get your voice heard - and, yes, I’m talking to YOU, my fellow Millennials! Create your future. After all, it’s all you've got.

Natalie Pearce

Consultant