On Brexit, young people "betrayed" by their elders, and voting
I have a strong feeling that certain headlines and assertions about the Brexit result are if not factually wrong, at least very misleading. I refer to statements that summarize charts and tables like the ones above in this way:
- “The U.K.’s Old Decided for the Young in the Brexit Vote”
- “Brexit is a middle finger from the baby boomers to young people like me”
- “Young screwed by older generations”
- “Young voters wanted Brexit the least - and will have to live with it the longest”
Fact is, it was very clear, well before the vote, that opinions varied greatly across age ranges and that
- “Britain’s young people will suffer most from an EU divorce”
- “Voter turnout would be crucial”
- “Young voters might hold key to Brexit vote”
I suggest that a crucial, and still largely overlooked issue here is in the complete title of the last link I gave, which is “Young voters might hold key to Brexit vote—but will they use it?”. Quoting from there, in late May Ed Miliband:
- “alarmingly [noted that] 1.5 million young people aged 18 to 24 who are entitled to vote are not on the electoral register with a further 2 million people aged between 25 and 35 not registered either”
- declared that “Today is a call to arms to all young people to register to vote… Be in no doubt: if young people don’t exercise their vote, this referendum will be lost and so will many of their futures”
Now, let’s assume (please see update below!) that the numbers in the screenshot above also represent the opinion of those 3.5 millions of young people who did not register to vote (because, a) why not, if it’s above all a generational issue, and b) if not, the whole “young betrayed by elders” argument loses sense).
If this is the case, it means that today there are in UK about 1,800,000 people (1.5M*0.6 + 2M*0.49) who want (or should want, in their own interest) to “Remain”, but did not register to vote accordingly. But three days ago, Brexit won because “Remain” got 1,269,501 votes LESS than “Leave” (16,141,241 vs 17,410,742).
I DO hope I am wrong. Because if I am right, it means that:
- certain headlines are false, and young UK voters were “betrayed” from their own non-voting peers as much as from their elders. No, more, actually: because the elders did perform their duty, that is show up to vote according to their opinions, their interests and those of their generation
- whatever bad things will come from Brexit, both in the UK and everywhere else, is “the fault” of those young non-voters, at least as much as of the myopic, egoist, etc.. older voters
- the sooner we put to rest this whole “old Britons betrayed young ones” storyline, the better for everybody
In general, this whole story also shows, or confirms, that:
- Just in case you still believed it: the whole concept that “Digital native” means “someone who is surely able to use the Internet for her own good” is pure and total crap. Too many UK “digital natives” were far from being “digital savy” (as their peers in any other country, of course!). Whoever lived in UK and had any kind of Internet access in the last six months also had easy access to understanding how incertain the referendum outcome was, and how different the two choices
- Too many people who are “more digital” also are, all too often, too disengaged. From Brexit to Climate change, everywhere:
- “[in the Brexit vote] it’s pretty clear that young people played to type” (i.e, they went to vote in smaller percentages)
- “With issues like climate change, the same tendency seems to hold… [T]he conventional wisdom holds that young Americans… should be more engaged with and concerned about the issue of climate change than older Americans.[New data, however] reveal that Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 are, for the most part, split on the issue of global warming and, on some indicators, relatively disengaged when compared to older generations.”
People can grow up disengaged for a LOT of external reasons outside their control. In many countries, however, young adults who (pun intended) remain disengaged only have themselves to blame for that. Because, if my calculations above are right, the most important lessons here, for young people in UK and everywhere else, are:
- stay informed, and above all:
- EVERY VOTE COUNTS. EVERY TIME. Even if the effect is not visible for years. Brexit happened last Thursday also because, for years, too many young people in UK did not vote for more pro-EU representatives. Limiting one’s civil and political action to voting would be idiotic, but everything but voting, on principle, is much more idiotic. There always is a lesser evil: if not for tomorrow, in the medium/long term. Think ahead. Voting is not Candy Crush. It is a powerful weapon, that can detonate years after you (do not) caste it
Now do yourself and everybody else a favour, because the whole world has to live with the results of certain choices, not just those who (refuse to) make them: please make sure that this post is read by everybody who, next November, will be called to elect the next president of the United States.
update 2016/06/28, 07:25am: in order to verify/complete the assumptions I made, I am looking for reliable, possibly official figures of how many people, in the age ranges shown in the screenshots, a) were eligible voters, b) had registered to vote this time and c) actually showed up to vote on June 23rd. I just discovered that “we may never know” the last series of numbers, but I still have hopes for the first two, which are the most relevant for me. Thanks in advance to whoever will provide them, in the comments or via email to email@example.com
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