On Sunday 15th September Dr Thomas Loughran presented our research findings at the annual Elections, Public Opinion and Parties (EPOP) Conference in Glasgow. Our paper was entitled ‘Who Supports Votes at 16 – From Apathy to Partisanship?’ presenting the latest version of the analysis from our 2 Survation surveys comparing attitudes to the voting age among 16 and 17 year olds with the electorate overall. The main argument emerging from our findings is that the voting age has become an increasingly polarised issue in UK politics as age has become a more critical political division. This has implications for the importance of public opinion on the topic for both advocates and opponents of ‘votes at 16’ as we increasingly move towards a period of implementation.
The presentation was part of a panel entitled ‘Young Voters’ which also included fascinating work from Christine Huebner of University of Edinburgh comparing young people’s political participation in Scotland and the Netherlands and Dr Joe Greenwood of LSE on a ‘votes-at-16’ survey experiment exploring the importance of framing and priming effects on levels of public support for ‘votes at-16’.
It was a privilege to have been involved in such an interesting and coherent panel which stimulated an important debate among the audience about the underlying drivers of support for lowering the voting age, the relevance of public opinion in such an elite driven policy process, young people’s perceptions of ideology and political action, self-actualisation and the impact of BREXIT on the support and polarisation of ‘votes-at-16’.