Young people and contemporary politics: committed scepticism or engaged cynicism?

2006-03-16T17:48:04Z (GMT) by Dominic Wring Matt Henn Mark Weinstein
Growing concern about public disaffection with the British political process and its institutions has manifested itself in a number of ways. Whilst some have addressed the apparent decline in electoral participation, others have sought to assess and understand the motivations and interests of specific groups within the population such as women and those belonging to ethnic minorities. Recently, attention has also begun to focus on young people's engagement with the political process. This concern was borne out by a campaign launched in the run-up to the 1997 General Election. Backed by a cross-party alliance, the music industry initiative Rock the Vote urged young people to make sure they were entered on the electoral register so that they might exercise their democratic rights. Symbolically the campaign’s May 1996 launch event took place at the prestigious Ministry of Sound club in London’s West End. In promoting itself Rock the Vote attempted to reinforce the idea that, collectively, the youth vote could play a potentially important role in British politics. There is a perception that young people are increasingly seen as being politically important. During the last general election the victorious Labour Party made a concerted effort to target youth with a specially produced promotional video and advertising in magazines and even nightclubs. Similarly, following their defeat, the Conservatives opted to elect William Hague as their new leader in a clear vote of confidence in youth over experience. Hague, in a bid to make his age part of his appeal, has talked of a ‘fresh start’, worn a baseball cap and attended the Notting Hill carnival.