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Published on March 12th, 2014 | by Owain Mortimer
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The Digital Election

It is a disappointing fact that only 12% of people in the 18-24 age bracket voted in the last General Election. As mentioned in my previous blog here, voting among young people has steadily declined since the 1960s. But could the 2015 General Election be an exception to this rule? The reason I ask this is because of the growth of social media and social networking. Basically, Twitter and Facebook could decide who wins the General Election. And by this I don’t mean Mark Zuckerberg or the other guys that own Twitter, but you. Young people.

I recently attended a talk by a political communications consultancy on the role of digital communications and social media in the 2015 General Election. The talk was hosted by a number of political big wigs, ie the editor of a political website, a communications strategist for the Labour Party and a Conservative MP.

It was interesting to hear the views of people at different stages of politics on how they feel social media will affect the election. The last election was billed beforehand as the first election to be decided by the internet but it never really turned out that way. But in 2015, with Twitter and Facebook now firmly entrenched into everyday lives, could this really be the first election influenced mainly by digital communications. I hope so, because who uses social media and the internet more than anyone else? That’s right, younger people.

With smart phones having now overtaken desktop computers for the device that most people access the internet on, there is a huge ‘market’ of young people out there that they can access directly. There are now 423 MPs (out of 650) on Twitter. And I feel the best thing about this is that it gives MPs and people campaigning to become an MP the opportunity to show us who they really are. After all, Twitter is not an official form of communicating for a politician/candidate. It is social media, so instead of spouting out party statements and policy jargon, I want these MPs and candidates to show that they have a personality! There might be a few people out there that can show us they care and are the right people, they can show us that they understand what issues the rest of us care about and will act in the general publics’ best interests.

If the political parties can harness the use of Twitter et al, without looking like parents trying to be cool in front of their kids’ friends, then maybe it will get young people interested? If they can keep their manifesto policies to 140 characters it might mean someone actually reads them. And they should. This next election is a big one for young people. With welfare reforms affecting young people in an unfairly disproportionate way, and the lack of decent jobs for young people to apply for, who gets into power for the next five years will be very important to the young people of today indeed.

Another important aspect of digital communications is the ability it gives people to get involved and organize campaigns or events. I advise all young people involved in politics to get in touch with local campaigners, councilors, community leaders, sports/social club leaders and get involved with local issues. It can help you gain a sense of belonging and responsibility to your area. It can also be brilliant fun, and give you the chance to meet some awesome people. I know spending a Saturday morning knocking on people’s doors asking their views on immigration might not sound fun, but it really can be. You can organize different events, anything that you find interesting that can get your message across.

The political parties should really do their best to use social media to get younger voters involved. If the majority of young people voted, it could completely change the political landscape of this country, and that is not an overstatement. We would be living with our own choices rather than ones made by people 60+, who are the largest voting group. Imagine that? Beaten by old people. Tragic. And beaten we are if we don’t vote, because it is us who will lose out. Social media could change politics forever! It would force the main parties to focus on young people and truly come up with policies that are for the long term good of this country.

But in the end, if the message from the big-wigs that run politics is still the same, the way people ignore it isn’t going to make a difference. But this is an opportunity to really make our voices heard! From the comfort of our own sofas, with no raised voices.

 

Please note that all blog posts do not represent the views of Catch21 but only of the individual writers. We also aim to be factually accurate and balanced across all content taken as a whole.

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About the Author

My name is Owain Mortimer. I studied Politics at Cardiff University and Globalization and Development at the University of Manchester. My main areas of interest are British politics (more specifically social and economic inclusion), and Environmental issues such as tackling climate change.



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