Spin fails to deter young voters

January 15, 1999

The antics of the government's spin doctors have not put Britain's youth off politics or the ballot box, according to research.

In a study by researchers from Loughborough and Nottingham Trent universities, most young people thought politicians were out of touch with them. But only a tiny proportion of them believed voting was a waste of time.

The findings of the survey of 1,600 17 and 18-year-olds in the East Midlands suggested that most young people take much more interest in politics than is generally thought by the media and the public.

More than four-fifths of respondents said they had discussed politics with family or friends, and many were politically active. Most had signed a petition, nearly half had given money to a campaign, and many had been on a demonstration or march.

Three-quarters of those surveyed said they thought it was important to vote in national elections, and two-thirds also supported voting in local elections.

Although the activities of spin doctors such as Peter Mandelson have apparently not left youngsters disillusioned with politics, the political parties' internal conflicts over Europe seem to have had a more direct impact on attitudes. Very few young people surveyed said they would take part in European Assembly elections.

According to Loughborough social scientist Dominic Wring, who worked on the study with Nottingham Trent economics and politics lecturers Matt Henn and Mark Weinstein, the survey indicated that young people felt involved in local and national politics but "disengaged" from the European Union.

"They are not the politically disaffected youth portrayed by the media during the 1997 general election. But they feel separate from Europe, and even among those who said they would take part in European elections, only 20 per cent had an idea who they would vote for," he said.

Young People and Politics, available from Alistair McCrady, Policy Division, Nottinghamshire County Council, County Hall, West Bridgford, Nottingham. Price Pounds 3.50..

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