Drunk and disengaged is how many might consider students when it comes to politics – yet the student vote is one with enough power to change seats. General election incoming, Bournemouth students are becoming more and more engaged with the political landscape as they figure out who to vote for with the help of events and activities all engrossing the young mind in the realms of the ballot box. Even YouGov has discovered that nationally 18-24’s participation has increased by up to 60%. We are young, and we are engaged.
Alongside the increasing participation of students, is the increasing ease of knowledge. Young people are having more and more methods to find out about politics with helpful websites like TheyWorkForYou and VoteForPolicies; the first lets you see how your constituencies MP voted on every political issue, and the latter is an online quiz to work out which party’s policies you agree with most with a nice little pie chart to show your results. It’s all incredibly simple, and incredibly digestible, even for the least political minds. And as a generation typically glued to our phones and laptops, and the extensive media coverage extends to our social media feeds, it’s inescapable .
Campaigns themselves seem be trying bit hard to appeal to the youth vote, with PR stunts like Milifandom (because quite frankly, is anybody really attracted to Ed Miliband?) and the David Cameron interview ‘revealing’ his relation to Kim Kardashian. While trying however, politicians risk transcending the celebrity – politician border, especially by claiming to be part of the Kardashian family lineage, with one Bournemouth student explaining that they don’t plan to vote because politicians are “just on tv and in magazines, they don’t care about us so Kim K might as well be in charge”. Yet not all is bad, although the intentional attempts to appeal to youth fail – the Milibandom phenomena isn’t doing all that horrendously, with most youth voters planning to vote Labour according to YouGov’s latest poll.
To get an insight into the political landscape of Bournemouth, we spoke to the The Independents Student Ambassador to find out how young people really feel about politics.
Scarlett Dixon: Student Ambassador The Independent
Is the perception that young people are ignorant about politics reflective of truth?
I think the real issue is that young people feel out of touch with politics rather than them being completely ignorant of it. Young people feel forgotten and in the House of Commons, there’s no representation or voice for us. Plus, politics as a whole is very bureaucratic and complex, unless you have a passion for it – but why shouldn’t we understand how our government is run?
You hosted the Bournemouth iDebate, discussing whether political chaos would benefit Britain, were you surprised by the turn-out? If so, why?
There was a mix of students, families, young people and those from the older generation. It just reiterated for me that politics affects everyone and although politicians make it very easy to feel out of touch with what they’re proposing, everyone has an opinion on it.
Do you feel events like this draw in students who were previously disinterested?
Yes definitely! Although everyone might not be passionate about politics – most students have an opinion on the way the country should be run – or at least on some policy affecting them. A debate is a great way to gage with this opinion – you usually find people are very passionate about the topics affecting them, even if they don’t ‘love’ politics in general.
How politically active do you find young people and Bournemouth students in particular?
Young people are the generation that will be in government in the future – and the general consensus is that we’re disengaged – in actuality, we’re more engaged then ever – we’re just left out of mainstream promotion and media coverage. At Bournemouth; I think with a mix of politics and media courses available, there always seems to be a number of debates going on surrounding politics – which is great because it gives opportunities for students to get involved – even if we’re left out of the main promotional campaigns!
Why should students engage in politics?
Because politics affects everything we do, where we live, how we live, how much we earn and so forth. Not everyone is happy with politics (at least in the UK) but I think it is important to understand and engage with it – because if you ignore it altogether, your valid views won’t be heard! And perhaps in the future – you’ll be the one representing a party!
It becomes clear that the thing to really gets students into the thick of it when it comes to political engagement is events. And that’s something Bournemouth really shines at, with the Politics Society hosting regular debates with local candidates in the lead up, and even The I paper hosting one recently, students here have a great opportunity for events to get involved with and watch. Not only are there debates, but hundreds and hundreds of students who may be political whizzes or who may know nothing who are getting involved with The Media School’s huge election coverage project Your Election 2015, allowing a hands on introduction to something they may not be clear on – so yes, we really are an engaged generation.