Should Young People Be Made To Vote?


The younger generation in Britain is continually under-represented in the polls. Voter turnout in UK General Elections for the 18-24 age group barely reached 40% in 2001, before falling to 38.2% in 2005 and slightly rising to 44% in 2010. This suggests that young people are clearly disappointed with British politics, but what is the solution?

How can Britain make young people feel sure that their voice means enough to go out and vote? A think tank called the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has argued that making voting compulsory for young people in the first general election after they turn 18 may help to win back young voters and fuel a sustained interest in British politics for the rest of their lives.

Compulsory voting for first-time voters could help kick start the habit of a lifetime. Without radical reform, we risk sleepwalking into a more divided democracy. – Mat Lawrence, IPPR Research Fellow

The expenses scandal of 2008-09 sent shock waves right through the political establishment, leading to widespread mistrust towards politics and politicians. The 2010 general election saw no party achieve the minimum 326 seats that a party must win in order to achieve an overall majority, resulting in a marriage of convenience between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. Efforts to bring about electoral reform in 2011 failed when voters rejected the AV system instead of first-past-the-post. Other factors, notably including Nick Clegg’s broken promise not to raise tuition fees, have made many young people feel seriously let down by politics. The IPPR is therefore suggesting that a “None of the above” option should be added to the ballot paper, giving voters the opportunity to not support any of the political parties but still ensuring their voices are heard.

leaders debate

Demos Head of Political Participation, Jonathan Birdwell, has pointed out that there are three million young voters who are up for grabs in next year’s election.

“The political party that can tap into this pool may just win the keys to Downing Street. Young people are currently turned off voting because politicians aren’t offering them credible, positive policies that address the issues they’re most concerned about.” – Jonathan Birdwell, Demos Head of Political Participation

Mat Lawrence, an IPPR research fellow, has argued that high levels of voter turnout amongst young people in last year’s Scottish independence referendum suggests that there is good reason to be hopeful and optimistic and the future of youth engagement with politics in the UK. Research has shown that taking part in elections earlier in life creates a habit amongst voters to continue voting in later life.

The IPPR has stressed that this is a contemporary and urgent issue, warning that failure to engage young voters will create a political landscape determined by older, often more affluent voters.

The last day on which one can register to vote, however, is Monday 20th April, which can be done online at

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