Meeting with the Political Studies Association By Jason Moran
“Why is it that some people are engaged in politics and others, the majority, don’t give a hoot?”
asked Professor Jacqui Briggs during our meeting today. The Political Studies Association (PSA) graciously facilitated said meeting with both Briggs and British Youth Council (BYC) Trustee––Larissa Kennedy. After settling into a meeting space in Piccadilly, representatives from the PSA told us a bit about themselves and we spent the afternoon being walked through the ins and outs of youth voting in the U.K. while supplying our experts with questions.
Students asked Larissa Kennedy “If you had 30 seconds to impress upon the American youth the importance of voting, what would you say?
The PSA is an organization of academics, students, and policy-makers interested in the study of politics. It has many specialist research groups, one of which focuses on youth in politics; as a member of this group, Professor Briggs’ research covers youth voter turnout specifically in reference to 16 and 17 year-olds voting in Scotland. She has analyzed factors ranging from familial engagement to civic education in determining key socializing agents for young voters. When considering potential solutions to low turnout, Briggs advocated for compulsory voting (such as that implemented in Belgium and Australia) due to the nominal nature of voting fines, the option to mark “none of of the above” on ballots, and the possibility to create a resurgence of democracy. “I didn’t really understand how compulsory voting could be a viable solution to lowering the voting gap because it took away people’s freedom to choose, but the idea of compulsory voting to increase turnout and possibly increase educated voting makes it a much more viable option than I thought before talking to Professor Briggs,” said junior class representative, Charlie Barrett. We compared the use of incentives versus punishment in voting and noted drastically more widespread, better results yielded by enforcing the latter. In the end, from an academic standpoint, the lack of youth voter turnout is a multifaceted issue with extensive solutions at hand.
“Politics belonged to young people for the first time in a long time through social media.”
The BYC is an organization that helps British youth find their voice and use it to improve their lives. The British Youth Council has a board of trustees 25 years and younger, including Larissa Kennedy who is 19 years old. Kennedy discussed political trends in the U.K. related to the BREXIT vote and newly coined term “Youthquake” in the 2017 general election. In regards to the 2017 general election, Kennedy stated that, “politics belonged to young people for the first time in a long time through social media.” Jamie Roberts from the Political Studies Association cautioned us to remember that social media is a bubble and can provide false security about how elections may sway. We discussed with Kennedy our thoughts about why there is a low voter turnout in young demographics and found that our ideas were very similar to her’s.
In her presentation, Kennedy outlines the three main reasons for the gap between youth turnout and overall voter turnout in the U.K.: the political parties do not cater to youth due to historically low voting numbers, they lack sufficient political education, and they feel disillusionment – loss of trust in political parties and their promises. Upon reflection on his time with Kennedy, senior Jacob Villaman shared, “I was impressed with how active she was in advocating for individual rights at such a young age and she already plays a huge role in the political system.” Kennedy left the interview equally impressed with TEA students in her tweet. Thanks to the PSA, Professor Briggs, and Ms. Kennedy, we have a much better understanding of how to encourage our generation to turn out and vote.