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The election and the younger audience

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Rod McKenzie Rod McKenzie | 16:54 UK time, Thursday, 27 May 2010

Going through the latest audience research in the wake of the election there are some very eye-catching and perhaps surprising results.

A staggering eight out of 10 16-to-34-year-olds watched, listened or read BBC election news during the campaign.

Previously, I've blogged about apathy and the young, but there's no doubt for some reason, something has changed.

So what's the evidence?

2.7 million 18-to-34-year-olds watched the third debate on the BBC and, anecdotally, we heard the format was appealing to younger audiences - with many praising Nick Clegg's performance in particular.

Millions of young Radio 1 listeners listened to our leaders' debates on Newsbeat, followed it online or heard coverage on the Chris Moyles Breakfast Show and across the day led by our politics reporter Robin Brant. One in five young people heard our coverage in the last week of the campaign.

BBC Three's first-time voters Question Time with Dermot O'Leary on 5 May reached 186,000 people in the same age bracket and the BBC's drive for clear, engaging, coverage seems to have hit a positive note with younger audiences with six in 10 agreeing that our explanations and reporting improved their understanding.

On Radio 1, we invited Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg to meet some of our listeners - all first-time voters, all unsure how, or even whether, to vote. The Radio 1 boardroom - more used to the legendary weekly meeting to decide the station's playlist - was transformed into a studio to record three special editions of Newsbeat. The leaders faced the listeners - chaired by our presenter Tulip Mazumdar.

David Cameron with Tulip Mazumdar and radio 1 audience

If ever we thought this would be a tame exercise in polite political repartee we were wrong. What followed was politics with the gloss removed - real, young, working people getting stuck in on the issues that engage them day in, day out: jobs, immigration, petrol prices, a feeling of disconnect from the political machine in Westminster. Deference didn't make an appearance on our agenda.

So what did we get right for young voters?

The clarity? The immediacy? The gritty up-close-and-personal nature of the story, the leader debates and the sense that politicians were facing real voters outside their perceived Westminster comfort zone. I bet you'll have your own views, let us know.

Rod McKenzie is editor of Newsbeat and 1Xtra News.


  • Comment number 1.

    The lunchtime listener's panel was one of the highlights of the campaign. I think it should be a regular feature in some way, but not all the time.

  • Comment number 2.

    IMHO the government did the right thing by not setting a minister up to be shredded by Campbell and the sooner Labour dump him the better.

  • Comment number 3.

    Sadly Question Time last night did it's best to turn my young new voter off 'politics' for life.

  • Comment number 4.

    It is great to see that young people are taking interest in politics.
    Hope this is not one off and they continue as we did to participate in the elections and give their vote.

  • Comment number 5.

    I'm a young 'soon-to-be' voter (18 next year). I find politics rather interesting. I didn't watch all the debates, just the 3rd one. I thought it rather good, however, I prefer looking at the manifestos of each party and then deciding on which to support.

    I think that a lot of the older generations think that most 16-20 year olds are incapable of deciding which party to support, hence why many disagree with a voting age of 16. I find this rather insulting. Many adults are no wiser than some teenagers when it comes to politics.

    Teenagers suffer a bad reputation, a lot of people think that all teenagers want to stab you and are illiterate idiots. Most of us aren't, we study and try our best to succeed. We also try to take interest in current events.

    Not all of us want to stab you and steal your wallet.

  • Comment number 6.

    Since the election, although not being able to vote yet, my interest in politics has skyrocketed from being practically non-existent to being responsible for violent fights over newspapers with 'Cameron and Clegg' headlines! I am not alone; most of my peers have strong political views and, I feel, would be informed enough to vote if the voting age was lowered to sixteen. However, I suspect that it is not only teenagers and young people who have lost their apathy for politics, but the population in general - the reason being, to be quite honest, that this is the most interesting government in years.

  • Comment number 7.

    I think the debates were a great thing and I hope that the younger voters will continue to be enthused. But I must agree that everyone, all ages, have lost their apathy given the excitement and interest of this coalition government.

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 10.

    Very good things were done by this world famous channels during British election times.
    I have watched it, and found that, many youngsters,students,adults were participated,raised some questions on country!s economy,tax debates,and local issues with Liberal party leader and from other important leaders.
    Generally speaking, Liberal party!s views are appealing and more practical than others.
    One month will be passed.Let us see their government formations, policies implementations for UK citizens and in general.,

  • Comment number 11.

    They may have watched - but did they vote?

    It's important to remember that although this election was massively hyped and receieved a lot of media coverage, turnout was only up by a measly 4%.

    One of the reasons for continued low turnout amongst youth is the lack of a leftist option. As the saying goes, 'You get more right wing as you get older' - many youth are pretty left wing and unlike in mainland Europe, we don't have a truly leftist option in the UK any more. Two parties of the centre versus one of the centre-right. The Greens or Respect may be an option, and garner youth votes, but they don't field candidates in all constituencies (they didn't in mine).

    I didn't vote in this election because of the lack of choice in my constituency and as there was no 'None of the Above' option (positive abstention)there's little point in me participating. I'm sure many younger people feel the same. Pleased to see I still count as part of the 'younger audience' though (I'm 31).

  • Comment number 12.

    I am a Canadian citizen reside in Toronto, the poorest disable victim of Ministry of Attorney general of Ontario Canada without any income security from either canadian goverment living with the help of poor sons,and this G8 news is a big corruption of this canadian Gverment to which before this Cons as they are legal thieves for lobbying their comrades stake holders of banks and others big Companies as they are exclouded as appt. for zero taxsation as they are Democratically elected members of this Governments, should not made such undemocratically zoo circuses for 30 second question period so as they did prepared for themselves for escape of punitive, as they are not Honorable, so the Honorability must be earn with self-respect, not as same as two other Canadian Prime Ministers were privies, they did illegally acted as they are legal thieves, previously scandals after scandals to which they sold out the Air Port, High ways, hospitals, after purchases of AIR Buses, who SOLD out the Air Canada, who bought that, how much was it after 20 years is privies.
    2. Why such a Canadian purgation of parliament for a year sustains?
    3. Why these Canadian legal thieves have been protected by such western pistols of immunity and impunity never paid back their embezzlements yet with cost $16 million legal fees and disbursements; Finally our CBC, post Canada, and the rest Canadian citizens will be for sale?

  • Comment number 13.

    Rod, I think there were plenty of articles and blogposts about voter apathy in the UK before the election... judging by outcome and stats afterwards though, most peoples' guesses from poll turnouts through to youth engagement through social networking sites like facebook erred on the side of well... being wrong!

    Certainly the younger UK audience wasn't as engaged as the US youth during their 08 election - Barack Obama used technology well to capture the minds and attention of young people better than any of the UK parties.. not even Nick Clegg came close.


  • Comment number 14.

    young people are expected to attend these kind of debates.But , they don't usually interested in these subjects. Seeing to be interested in is very delighted. it is necesarry for policy in the World. Because the younger see everthing transparency so they can be straighforward.


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