Force young people to vote at first opportunity, says think tank

A woman passes a polling station The IPPR argues that young people, who are less likely to vote, have been hit hardest by spending cuts

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Young people should be required to turn out at the first election in which they have the right to vote, the IPPR think tank has said.

The plans, to be set out in a forthcoming report, involve a small fine for young people deciding not to vote at their first election.

They would also offer first-time voters who did not back any political party a "none of the above" option.

Labour is reportedly considering whether to back the idea.

Shadow lord chancellor Sadiq Khan has also said his party might propose lowering the voting age from 18 to 16.

IPPR researchers found that the UK has one of the largest differences in voter turnout between young and old people in Europe.

In 2013 local elections, an estimated 32% of 18- to 24-year-olds voted, compared with 72% of those aged over 65, the think tank said.

It also estimated that turnout for under-35s earning less than £10,000 a year was just 34%, whereas turnout for over-55s with an income of at least £40,000 a year was 79%.

'Vicious cycle'

According to the IPPR's figures, young people have been hit hardest by public spending cuts, with 16- to 24-year-olds facing cuts to services worth 28% of their annual household income, compared with 10% of the income of those aged 55-74.

Start Quote

It could well help to reinvigorate democracy”

End Quote Sarah Birch Politics professor at Glasgow University

Guy Lodge, an associate director at the think tank, said: "Unequal turnout matters because it gives older and more affluent voters disproportionate influence at the ballot box.

"Turnout rates among the young have fallen significantly which means there is less incentive for politicians to pay attention to them.

"Young people who don't vote today are less likely than previous generations to develop the habit of voting as they get older, which is why first time compulsory voting is so important."

The result was a "vicious cycle of disaffection and under-representation" in which, he said, "As policy becomes less responsive to their interests, more and more decide that politics has little to say to them."

Report co-author Sarah Birch, a politics professor at the University of Glasgow, added: "There are many other things that young people are required to do, not the least of which is go to school.

"Adding just one more small task to this list would not represent an undue burden, and it could well help to reinvigorate democracy.

"It would make politicians target first-time voters like never before and give young voters the potential for far greater political power."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    96.Carl Hayward
    Try reading the article, it states that "None of the above" would be an option, which should be available to all voters. Compulsory voting is already in practice in Australia and they don't seem to suffer over it

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    Vote? How about we vote who wants to get involved in Syria? The more we help people, the more they come here and take food from our kids mouths. They never stick to their campaign promise and saying sorry ain't good enough when we are paying you sky high wages to have 2 homes. Should be like the army, make them live on a base, 5 day week, and results...or forfeit control.

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    Seems the opinion on here and elsewhere is that it is the mediocrity of our politicians and their lack of understanding of he real word the rest of us live in which is the problem which needs addressing. Change the system to include protest votes and ballot papers marked as we see fit. Have them counted and the results published.

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    Im all for making people vote (or at least turning up even they choose not to vote) but this sounds like Labour thinking the young population will vote for them. How about first educating the young generation properly as most 18yolds have no clue what they are actually voting for in the first place

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    At 65 I need an incentive to vote, my local MP has an unassailable FPTP majority, as do my Local Councillors. I do not support the three main parties as such, only some of their policies. I would welcome a change in election methods, to include Key Policies, not party. A box for 'None of the Above' would get me voting. As it stands I have little reason to walk the 50 mtrs to my polling station.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    12 Minutes ago
    NO. A vote is basically an endorsement of corruption.
    Our young should have a choice NOT to become embroiled in the sham we call democracy

    Wrong! The young should realise that they are the future of this country and that they have responsibilities to society. If they want to be protesters, anarchists, or whatever, they can vote to opt out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    Voting should be compulsory for all. There is no excuse for ignorance or apathy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    This reflects the issue of voting, why bother, all main parties are the same, just different leaders. Voting for an ideology instead of a person would be a start. No leaders, what you vote for is the declaration of ideas and principles. At the moment idiots vote for charisma and looks, how dumb is that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    Compulsory voting is not democracy.

    Young voters don't turn out because what they perceive is that There Is No Choice. To them all these suits and career Politicians are indistinguishable from each other.

    It's as simple as that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    The leftists are working on the assumption that most young people would vote labour,students maybe,white kids on council estates definitely not,the party that would gain the most would be the BNP

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    Voter "apathy" is a lie.
    The media is in denial about Voter Contempt.
    I will go to jail before being forced to vote for more inequality.
    The headline - "Make young people vote, report urges". Who the hell do they think they are?

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    If you introduce a fine for not working, then young people will sure not vote.

    All the major political parties are very similar. Most young people see no point in voting one way or another.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    Belgium seemed to function ok without a government for 541 days, so perhaps we could factor this into the 'austerity package'.
    And the donations used to fund the election could be recycled into lower prices for consumers, or into the wider economy (i.e not just the banks)
    Just a thought

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    "What a load of rubbish, lets face it most 18 year old's couldn't give a monkeys what party is in power let alone be bothered too find out about policy's"

    At least we can be bothered to understand how to use grammar correctly. I think you meant "policies".

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    This idea hits at the very heart of democracy. Forcing people to vote is plain wrong. People should have the freedom to vote if they so wish but never be forced to so do. What if the young person does not agree with whats on offer? Should they be made to vote for something they do not support or agree with ?? I welcome the debate on the matter but not the proposals being made today.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    A sensible idea but needs to be taken a lot further to reinvigorate democracy. Lets ban all political advertising so parties have to go out and meet people (and listen), have electronic voting in parliament (we can check how our MPs vote), let us have dual voting, 1 for our local MP and 1 for a national party, scrap the house of lords and introduce central party political funding

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    Very democratic. How about giving young people a reason to vote?

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    Sounds very much like a leftwing attempt to fix the result.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    Nonsense. Either everyone should be required by law to vote or no one should be required by law to vote.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    I'm not sure that Baron Adonis knows anything about being voted for.There are other ways to gain power and influence though.


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