EU Referendum Program Targets Youth Vote

EU Referendum Program Targets Youth Vote

Thousands of young voters from the United Kingdom have tuned into a live political discussion ahead of the EU referendum on June 23.

The interactive program Are You In Or Out aired on Monday as part of youth-led movement Bite the Ballot’s ongoing attempt to register 500,000 young voters before the June 7 deadline.

Targeted at young people, the program aimed to engage viewers in the referendum debate, which has moved away from youth-interest topics such as education and freedom of movement.

Young people make up more than a quarter of the eligible voting population in Britain, but are still the most unengaged political age group.

According to the Electoral Commission, 16- to 24-year-olds are two times less likely to be on the electoral register as the population at large, with almost half not registered to vote.

Of those registered and eligible, only 43 per cent turned out to vote in 2015’s general election.

Bite the Ballot co-founder Mike Sani, who hosted Are You In Or Out, told The Guardian that a lack of political education often excludes younger generations from engaging in political debate.

“Knowledge is power, and some people are educated about how the country is run and some people are not,” said Mr Sani. “Young people are just seen as consumers, not citizens.”

“I don’t think most people even know what a political ideology is. Why should they? You don’t just automatically pick this stuff up. It’s a typical British blame culture of how it’s your fault.”

Discussing the pros and cons of the referendum were some of Britain’s most famous young faces, online stars and big voices.

Among them were Uni Lad’s Chief Executive Liam Harrington, television controversialist Katie Hopkins and YouTuber Jamal Edwards.

Main topics covered by the panelists included economy, security and internal immigration.

Katie Hopkins was vocal on the subject of voter turn-up, saying young people would be more politically involved if the UK voting system was more like reality television.

“If more 18- to 24-year-olds vote in reality TV than they do in the general election, [the government] should get it online. Make it so people can text to vote,” says Ms Hopkins.

“Give people their national insurance number and say ‘vote now’. Don’t make it difficult, because it’s already difficult for young people to vote.”

The program was streamed worldwide through Facebook Live to ensure young people living or travelling outside the UK could also engage in the discussion.

Viewers were encouraged to get involved in the discussion with the hashtag #InOutLive, which trended on Twitter for several hours.

Almost two-thousand social media users were swept up in the discussion, with most of the commentary centering around people’s individual voting preferences.

Polls run by Bite the Ballot on Twitter during the program showed that 47 per cent of 13.5 thousand young people would like to remain a member of the European Union.

Around 14 per cent were still undecided.

Samuel Asante, one of the panelists on the program, likened the indecisiveness of his age group to a romantic relationship.

“When guys are in relationships and they think: ‘Oh, my girlfriend’s doing my head in’ and you sometimes forget all the benefits,” said Mr Asante.

“And you think: ‘Once you’re single again there’s going to girls queueing up for you’, but when you dump the girl and you realise that no one actually wants you.”

British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens over 18-years-old who are resident in the UK can vote in the referendum, as can Britons who have lived abroad for less than 15 years.

Eligible citizens have until June 23 to decide which option they will vote for on the referendum, which will be held during the summer holiday break for most universities.

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