New figures reveal turnout among 18-24 year olds rose above 60% this election – for the first time since 1992. This is a game-changer.
For months before the election we heard time and again that the left’s plan to mobilise young people was doomed. That young people could not swing the result. We even heard this from young people – trapped in the idea that we would play no role. It doesn’t get much bleaker than this line:
“Our vote will have no impact in the upcoming general election.”
It’s nice to be proven wrong, with the release of the British Election Study yesterday – the most in-depth analysis of General Elections in the UK. It’s shedding a lot of light on June’s result.
There were a lot of figures thrown around after polling day. An Ipsos MORI poll put 18-24 turnout at 54%, while an NME exit poll said 53%. Many on the left pitched the figure as 72% – an evidence free claim at the time, debunked by Channel 4 fact-checkers. But now we have the sturdiest estimates yet – and they suggest a relative ‘youthquake’.
New figures revealed by the House of Commons Library show that turnout among that group rose above 60% this election – for the first time since 1992. It goes without saying that it’s a game-changer.
Not only that – turnout actually fell among older voters (something backed by research here), uninspired by Theresa May’s vision of…well whatever she was meant to have a vision of.
The surge in youth turnout was far greater than the overall two percentage point rise – suggesting it was young people who deprived the Conservatives of their majority. Professor John Curtice noted the swing to Labour was greater in seats with a higher population of 18 to 24-year-olds.
Given the vagaries of Britain’s voting system, it wouldn’t take a much greater push among young people to shift the result next time. In Richmond Park, Tory Zac Goldsmith won back his seat from the Lib Dem’s Sarah Olney with a majority of 45. In Southampton Itchen, Conservative Royston Smith took the seat with a majority of just 31.
Of course it can go either way – there are many Labour seats with tiny majorities. Six of the ten slimmest majority wins went to Labour in fact. And the race was even closer in Scotland. The SNP held onto the Fife North East seat by just two votes – 0.005% of the vote – after three recounts.
Next time – and it may come sooner than we think – we’ll be without the cynicism that spoke so surely of a youth apathy. Young people have tasted power at the ballot box, and that feeling’s not going away anytime soon.
Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.