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Are Young People Disengaged in Politics?

‘Young people have dramatic loss of faith in UK democracy’ read a Guardian headline in April 2022. Indeed, most of us will be familiar with this narrative, and the supporting statistics are clear:

  • A 2022 report by the UK parliament said ‘60% of 18-25 year olds think politicians don’t care’.
  • Only 54% of young people aged 18-24 turned out to vote in the 2019 election, the lowest of any age group.
  • The British Youth Council found in 2023 that 71% of young people don’t feel that political parties speak directly to young people in the lead-up to elections.

It is evident that young people are more disengaged in politics than older age groups, and a government report has attributed this to a number of reasons: political apathy, a lack of political awareness, an inability to relate to politics, and a clear lack of trust in governments.

Yet despite this disappointing picture on a national level, 9 out of 17 of our 2022 class of Politics students chose to study Politics at University. That may be because, thanks to their A level studies, they have less political apathy, more political awareness, and a higher ability to relate to politics than other young people across the country. We’ve been in touch with a few of our UoB School Politics Alumni to find out their views on the importance of studying Politics, whether or not they think political engagement among young people is in crisis, and what has led them as individuals to defy the national statistics.

Why did you choose Politics at A level?

I had a general interest before A level which I wanted to expand upon. I also believed that the subject was important in order to understand the wider world. Archie B, Class of 2022.

I’ve always been interested in politics and knew I wanted to study it so I thought it would be a useful A level to have. – Khadra I, Class of 2023.

I was always more politically engaged than some of my friends…I knew A Level Politics would give me a foundation to succeed. – Sarah R, Class of 2022.

What were your favourite aspects of the A level course?

The opportunities presented to us: trips to Parliament, debates, model NATO summits, live Q&As with Members of Parliament. – Archie B, Class of 2022.

I loved answering and exploring difficult questions about constitutional arrangements and political systems. – Khadra I, Class of 2023.

The content on US politics was incredibly interesting to me. The environment created in the classroom fosters insightful debate and is a space where everyone is comfortable to express themselves. – Sarah R, Class of 2022.

What has your experience been of studying Politics at University?

At University there is a wider focus on political theory that I believe studying A level Politics has enabled me to better understand. Studying Geography also really helped with my understanding of International Relations. – Archie B, Class of 2022.

Studying Politics at A level gave me a holistic understanding of ideas and concepts at university level. – Sarah R, Class of 2022.

What are your ambitions for the future?

I would like to eventually go into law or do a Masters in Politics and International Relations. – Archie B, Class of 2022.

I’m interested in journalism and international relations. – Khadra I, Class of 2023.

I would like to have a career in the political industry, even if it is not becoming a political figure. I’d like to work in international relations or abroad. – Sarah R, Class of 2022.

Do you think 18-24 year olds really are disengaged in politics?

No, I think rather than disengaged, 18-24 year olds are increasingly apathetic because there is very little going for young people. For example, it is unlikely young people will be able to afford to buy a house. – Archie B, Class of 2022.

No! Younger people really care about politics…they have a different way of engaging in politics that may not align with other age groups. However parties do not target the 18-24 group with pledges which attract young people. They are not pushed to vote as they don’t feel included. – Khadra I, Class of 2023.

It is very easy to get caught up in the 24/7 media cycle that perpetuates the idea that politics is full of scandal or too complex to understand. This creates a lot of distance between everyday people and politics. – Sarah R, Class of 2022.

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