We are pleased to announce the publication of our policy report ‘Making Votes-at-16 Work in Wales: Lessons for the Future’.
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The 2021 Senedd election was the first election in which young people aged 16 and 17 were enfranchised to vote in Wales. The election came with a range of unique challenges, not the least because of the coronavirus pandemic. Given these challenges, how did young people experience the election and what worked to mobilise 16- and 17-year-olds to vote? Based on large-scale qualitative research with 16- and 17- year-olds across Wales and with stakeholders involved in youth work and youth democratic engagement, this report provides a comprehensive look into how the pioneering generation enfranchised to vote at age 16 in Wales experienced the 2021 Senedd election and analyses what can be learnt for young people’s engagement in future elections and youth political engagement in Wales.
The findings highlight that young people in Wales faced a range of barriers to turning out to vote in the 2021 Senedd election – some exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, others that would have materialised regardless of the pandemic. Timing proved to be key for young people and for many initiatives supporting young people in turning out to vote. The findings also show that delivering Votes-at-16 is a complex and joint effort and that as first-time voters young people need to be supported systematically along distinct stages of their voting journeys. Some young people received more support than others, and experiences of engagement with the election varied considerably among young people from different social groups and different parts of Wales.
The report describes case studies of mobilisation efforts that worked well for the young people involved in our research and proposes concrete policy recommendations for investments into the long-term success of ‘Votes-at-16’ and youth political engagement in Wales.
Also have a look at our interactive infographic showcasing the stages of young people’s voting journeys and evidence collected on the barriers young people in Wales had to overcome. Versions for policymakers, practitioners, and young people provide recommendations for each stage of young people’s voting journeys.
The research for this report was funded by the UK Democracy Fund and led by Dr Christine Huebner at Nottingham Trent University. The material presented here represents the views of the authors, not necessarily those of JRRT or other UK Democracy Fund contributors.
On 8th November 2021, the project team in collaboration with the Welsh Government Local Government Democracy Division hosted an online event presenting new original evidence from the research with young people into their experiences of the 2021 Senedd election. The research presentation was the basis for a joint discussion on which lessons can be learnt from this first edition of Votes-at-16 in Wales for future Welsh elections.
Watch it here: https://youtu.be/btysc48T18w