Can digital media have a positive impact on young voters?

Posted: Tuesday 06th June 2017

Author: Imogen Woods


According to The Guardian, about 43% of 18-24 year olds are expected to vote in this year’s general election, with an expected turnout of 75% of over 65s. So why aren’t the younger generation more likely to vote? The general consensus amongst young people is that they aren’t voting either because they “can’t be bothered” or simply they don’t know the facts to make an informed voting decision.

Having narrowly missed being able to vote in last year’s EU referendum (annoyingly, I was born four days too late!) encouraging younger people to vote is something I feel very passionately about. This has led me to think about the ways in which modern communications can be used to help target young voters.

Working at a comms agency, it is interesting to analyse the way that politicians target a younger audience to help increase their knowledge of the general election and encourage them to vote for the party that will suit them best.

Twitter is the platform of choice for many politicians as it is an effective tool for repurposing and propagating sound bites from their manifestos. This way official campaign hashtags can be appropriated by younger voters who are eager to get involved in the conversation in a social sphere they feel comfortable in.

Facebook has similar advantages but could be considered more personal, as it offers a more engaging platform where young voters can launch or take part in a political conversation with those they already know. In recent years, Facebook has introduced features allowing individuals to let others in their network know that they are voting. Added as a life event, it is hoped that the feature could potentially encourage peers to place more value on their right to vote.

With around 300k videos uploaded every day, YouTube is another platform which I personally believe is the strongest to reach a young audience, as research has proved that late Millennials and Generation Z engage more with video content. According to a study conducted by digital media company Defy Media, on average 11 to 24 year olds spend 12.1 hours each week watching online content. When integrated with other platforms, such as Facebook, video can become an even more powerful medium, enabling political parties to reach a larger audience.

The added advantage of YouTube is the way it provides an open platform for vloggers to share their opinions with a vast online audience. When a percentage of young voters may feel less inclined to read through party manifestos or sit through confusing live debates, some vloggers can be regarded as opinion leaders as they appear as a more trustworthy point of reference to their audiences.

However are all vloggers providing accurate and trustworthy content? Should we be trusting all of their facts and opinions? Or should we encourage also seeing political manifestos and videos created by the political parties?

Hearing from opinion leaders in their peer group may give young voters a chance to make an informed decision for themselves, based on what is important to them, rather than being led by household discussion. After all, it is not uncommon to hear that young people vote for the same party that that their parents do, having been indirectly influenced over the years.

Additionally if we educate future voters from a young age, we can engage them, lead them to being more knowledgeable thus increasing their likelihood to vote, which is a responsibility that politicians have to help young people to have more control and interest in their future. This, with the addition of lowering the voting age to 16 could be a turning point for political engagement amongst young people.

On the 8th June, we all decide which party is to lead our country. You can find out where your local polling station is at https://wheredoivote.co.uk/. And in case you need more perspective, here’s some food for thought: the average YouTube video length in 2017 according to mini matters is 4 minutes and 20 seconds, which means that voting takes less time than watching a pug video. So don’t tell me you don’t have time to vote.


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