Politics?…who cares?voter apathy

voter apathy

What’s wrong with people nowadays huh? It seems the average person on the street doesn’t really feel engaged with politics and I’m struggling to work out why!

The question of voter apathy is not a new phenomenon of the noughties but when only 59% of people voted in the election in 2001- the lowest since 1918 (before women got the vote!!) one has to ask the question as to why?

To bring the question to a local level i.e onto campus, I’m currently bombarded as I walk around with election campaign posters of hopefuls in the Guilds executive elections and I’m also bombarded by groups of bright-faced 18yr olds with their parents traipsing round campus on tours. Now if I were one of these young candidates I would stare in awe thinking yeh this is the place for me look at the interaction, the engagement, wonder what these elections are about, get me here now this is what university is about!! Now I admit that perhaps that is only what I would think because I’m a geek like that, and you’re probably right that the average prospective student isn’t going to be swayed to come to Birmingham uni solely based on visions of student politics.

But this my friends is the problem! When then are these young people going to get engaged with any kind of politics, local, student or otherwise? In my view university is a melting pot of ideas and opinions, it’s a time to express those and have them shaped by debate and engaging with people you don’t agree with, it’s a place of activity and protest, a place to become an adult with rounder opinions and experience than when you arrived. This aspect of Bham uni life seems to be fading and fast. Many students don’t believe the Guild has any relevance to their uni lives other than the spar shop and Fab ‘n’ fresh and maybe the society they joined or if they are even aware of Guild council they think it’s for people only interested in arguing and politics that don’t mean anything in the real world. The unawareness and lask of voting in the Guild referendum demonstrates this neatly, wonder what the turn out will be like for the exec elections? not good I expect considering how many students now attend Bham uni!

But why is this happening? There’s probably no answer or several! Disillusionment at the system or politicians (or even people standing for exec elections), disinterest, lack of understanding on the issues or plain laziness? I must admit to feeling slightly exasperated when discussing this subject because to me being involved and understanding why I’m voting for so-and-so and what they stand for seems common sense and my duty as a citizen of a democracy. Especially when there are countries that do not have free elections and even here where women died for me to have the right to vote, I believe it is a disservice to them and to the best intentions of democracy.

In fact how about this for a last sentiment, a suggestion for a change in the law: If you do not vote in 3 consecutive elections (local and national) then you loose the right to vote and must prove that you deserve to have it back. This proof would be done by a simple rudimentary test of basic political knowledge. Argue amongst yourselves as to the logistics of this but just putting it out there to stir the waters!


One thought on “Politics?…who cares?voter apathy

  1. The Guild referendum achieved one of the higher student turnouts, I think around 14% of the students voted, which, for the people in the Guild was a success.
    However, this shouldn’t be the case, a success, to me, should be comfortably over half the population of students voting on issues which actually affect them more than they know. I think it’s here the real problem lies. I do not think that 86% of students are apathetic, but I do think there is a basic knowledge problem. This stems from poor communications from the Guild about the various things it does/offers etc. Which is why in pretty much all the manifesto’s this year there is the sudden recognition that more needs to be done to improve communications.
    Also, whether accurate or not, the Guild has a reputation for being ‘clique-y’ and this only serves to put people off more. If you are not inside the guild, one of the ‘hacks’, there is a much smaller chance of knowing about the affairs of the Guild. Enough of this Guild rant though, as you point out, the issue is as much to do with the students.
    I, as I’ve already said, don’t believe that most young people are apathetic, but I do believe they feel seperated from politics at any level. Unless you actively go looking for politics, it won’t find you. I believe it should work both ways, as democratically elected people, the MP’s or whoever, should be keen to talk to their voters much more than they do at the moment. The onus should not be on the voters to find their politician and his/her policies on x, y or z. Obviously this does not mean waiting for any politician to come and find any voter in their home, that would be silly; but greater communication is an issue at pretty much every level of government.
    It is this lack of communication which frustrates people the most, and serves to radicalise stories (Peter Hain) when they do emerge. Consequently, I think therefore that the apparent apathy is as much to do with the public as it is to do with the current politicians. There needs to be much more working together to combat the issue, rather than assuming it is either one group or the other. Everybody has problems/ wants etc, so there must be some ground with which politicians can engage anybody from any walk of life.

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