In the aftermath of any political event, it takes time for the dust to subside and a clear picture to be formed. Whilst the dust is settling, political junkies turn to the numerous collections of data in order to fill the schedules of media outlets with inane prattle and to slyly prove their predications right. Of course, these statistics can also provide us with a firmer picture as to what truly occurred on the twenty-third of July. From regional to ethnic breakdowns, it is towards the age bracket breakdown that a commentator can usually find a worthy story.
According to statistics obtained by Sky Data; the youth turn out rate for the referendum was at a measly thirty-six percent. The survey carried out by Lord Ashcroft found that approximately seventy-five percent of that same group voted to remain. The low turnout rate amongst my peers has been craftily utilised by politicians and commentators alike to blast the respective campaigns for their negative tones. However, this line of argument should be revealed to be misleading in and of itself.
Political campaigns exist to entice members of the electorate to cast their vote in a particular way. As such, campaigns do not exist to persuade youthful members of the electorate to actually participate. I recognise that the negative campaigns fought by both side have been extremely detrimental to political discourse. Campaigns fuelled by hate and questionable figures should be condemned for what they are - fraudulent, crass and a cause for disenfranchisement. However, commentators are wrong to place the responsibility of this group's woeful attendance record at the feet of Cameron, Johnson and co. Nor can the responsibility of participation be thrown towards the sitting government or Electoral Commission. After all, both bodies willingly extended the registration deadline, and ran a highly publicised campaign to tempt people of my age to set aside five minutes and sign-up.
It is important to recognise that this is not the first (nor will it be the last) democratic exercise in which this age bracket has let themselves down. Conclusive results in surveys carried out by Ipsos MORI shows that, turnout for this age bracket was at just forty-four percent and forty-three percent in the 2010 and 2015 elections, respectively. Perhaps the only anomaly was the Scottish Independence referendum when such voters had a fifty-four percent turnout rate according to ICM Research (readers would remember that, in this case, the franchise was extended to sixteen and seventeen year olds who were twenty-one percent more likely to vote, according to the same survey.) The only difference with this vote is that this had far reaching consequences. It is not like that was an unknown from the outset.
Instead, the aforementioned statistics work to highlight my generations' hypocrisy. Plainly put, this age group's idleness smells of nothing more than Western privilege. As a collective, those aged between eighteen and twenty-four have been the beneficiaries of European regulations, initiatives and institutions. However, when our loyalty was put to the test we failed to even show up.
Moreover, this collective has the audacity to cry foul at the result, even daring to question its democratic foundations. This is despite the fact that the Conservative government awarded the public a much sought after referendum on our membership, a record turnout overall and the results displayed a clear four percent difference. One shouldn't forget either, that for individuals too young to cast their vote look towards those aged eighteen/nineteen to represent them when casting their ballots. That is one of the major arguments given by MPs for not extending franchise to those younger individuals! Therefore, we haven't just let ourselves down by not turning up, but the generation after us as well.
Indeed, for the majority in my age bracket, political activism remains a foreign concept. Having grown up snuggled in the arms of the European Court of Jusice, and were mere teens when progressive moves such as equal marriage were made - we have, in short, never had to strictly fight for anything. As a direct result, casting a vote to my generation no longer appears to be a matter of civic duty. Tales of race rallies, stonewall riots and struggles for suffrage, all seem like ancient history. Hardship for the civil riots movement has been replaced by the struggle for iPhone battery life. Instead of realising our faults in not casting our votes, we blame the baby-boomer generation for the referendum's outcome; as if their vote is somehow less worthy in our democratic forum.
If there is one positive outcome of the United Kingdom withdrawing its membership of the European Union, I only hope it is to teach us youngsters a lesson. For the country that we desire, my generation will finally have to show up and fight.