Think tank urges parents to push 18 year olds to vote

Tuesday 07th April 2015 12:01 EDT

A centre-left think tank has urged British parents to encourage or even push their children to vote once they turn 18, especially on this general election. This comes after the voting age for the Scottish independence referendum was lowered to 16. Speculations have also been made to lower the voting age in England to be 16.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) said, “Making them vote may halt declining election turnouts and could "kick start the habit of a lifetime.”

In 2010, 44% of 18 to 24-year-olds voted, with the "younger and poorer" least likely to vote, it suggested.

the IPPR's Mat Lawrence said, “UK risks 'sleepwalking into a more divided democracy' unless there is reform.”

"The working class and the young have less input into political decision-making processes, with lower rates of participation and representation than older and more affluent citizens," the IPPR report suggested.

Such inequalities undermined the "legitimacy and effectiveness" of democracy, the report claimed, saying it was unlikely the trend would be reversed in next month's general election.

Political inequality

At the 1970 general election, the gap between the proportion of 18-24 year olds and over-65s who voted was 18%.

However, at the 2010 general election, the gap had risen to 32% - with 76% of over-65s voting, compared to 44% of 18-24 year olds.

Mr Lawrence added, "Long-run decline in voter turnout in the UK is being driven by the relative collapse in participation among the young and the less well-off - not by a uniform decline in turnout among all groups.”

"A distinctive non-voting population, generally younger and poorer, heightens political inequality by giving some groups far greater influence at the ballot box."

Mr Lawrence said the high turnout at the referendum, as well as the rise of grassroots groups, provided reasons for optimism.

Broadcaster and author Rick Edwards told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that he supported the proposal, saying "something drastic needs to happen" to encourage young people to vote.

He further said that if young people felt they were not being spoken to, or were not being paid any attention by politicians, they would be even less likely to vote.

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