Craig Ling

Grayling London, Victoria

 

This generation is worse than the last goes the argument, interested in nothing but computer games and the internet. And the implication is that the fault lies squarely with students, rather than with their political leaders.

But what’s the reality? Are young people really turned off by politics?

Evidence from the US suggests not. Instead it indicates that young people have simply chosen to opt out of traditional media, shunning TV news in favour of online engagement, just in the same way as previous generations turned their back on radio in favour of TV. Consumers behaviours may have changed, but that is certainly no reason to write people off entirely – in fact maybe it’s an opportunity.

Because the reality is that contrary to what one might expect, consumers of social media are actually more politically active that the rest of the population, not less so.

People on Facebook are 2.5 times more likely to come out and support their chosen candidate at a rally or public event; 43% more likely to vote; and crucially 57% more likely to persuade a friend of work colleague to vote. Add into the equation that 63% of Facebook users in the UK are under the age of 34 and it is clear that that there is a largely untapped audience of potentially politically active young people out there who could decide the fate of many a marginal seat.

So are young people really turned off by politics? Or have some politicians just been using antiquated leaflets and outdated mediums to try and reach them? And which Party will be the first to recognise an opportunity when they see one?

Craig joined Grayling Public Affairs from national disability charity Scope where he was Head of Campaigns. Prior to this he was Trade and Industry Policy Adviser to the Liberal Democrats.