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How to Inspire a Youthquake: Learnings from the UK 2017 General Election

In the five weeks leading up to UK's 2017 general election, 2CV asked 64 16-24 year-olds about the information they had received about the general election. Through on-street interviews, digital ethnographies and an online survey, we explored young people's experiences of the election and which messages resonated with them the most. This is what we've learnt…

How to Inspire a Youthquake

1. Keep it short and simple

The biggest obstacle that young people experience when it comes to voting is not knowing enough about the different parties and their policies. Young people want to be informed - but most of the election information they receive doesn't grab their attention or encourage them to act.

Very short, simple articles and 60-second videos are the most effective in capturing attention, providing information, and inspiring action. They break down complex information about parties and policies so that it can be absorbed quickly and easily - which is what the young people we spoke to want. 

2. Strike a balanced tone

Young people want comprehensive and snappy newspaper articles with short bursts of information - but they're distrustful of many of their current news sources, and feel let down. Mainstream media sources draw criticism from 16-24 year-olds for backing one particular agenda, candidate or party, and even the BBC is met with scepticism. It doesn't help that young people feel distrust towards politicians, either.

70% of young people want their main source of information to be a measured, neutral voice that cuts through the noise of sensationalist headlines, inflammatory opinion pieces and fake news. A balanced tone will make sure that young people don't switch off after the first sentence.

3. Find passionate ambassadors and feature them

The majority of young people also feel that election information isn't aimed at them, and many 16-24 year-olds want to hear more from 'people like me'. Featuring young people talking about political issues in an accessible way could resolve this.

This line of action could also help to set desirable norms by demonstrating that voting is something everyone does. Those who aren't interested tend not to have friends and family who are engaged in politics and think of voting as something other people do - but young ambassadors can help to change this.

4. Get on Instagram and Snapchat - but don't neglect well-trodden routes

Unlike Facebook, 16-24 year-olds make up a huge proportion of Instagram and Snapchat users. Take Snapchat, for example: 77% of the young people we spoke to use it at least once a day, while 70% of those aged over 24 never use this platform at all. Getting to know these platforms and posting tailored content will help their younger user base feel as though they are being addressed more directly. Instagram and Snapchat users who are popular with this age group can be turned to for inspiration when devising content which is both relevant and platform-specific. These platforms are also perfect for the short and snappy content that young people are the most attracted to. 

But new platforms aren't everything. While Facebook is easily the most used source of information about the election for young people, more traditional channels such as online/printed newspapers and the TV remain common too, despite feelings of distrust and dissatisfaction towards these media.

5. Keep young people engaged post-election

Although young people acknowledge that politics is important, it's rarely at the front of their mind. Outside of election time, politics drops off the radar much more for 16-24 year-olds with just 28% thinking about it at least once a day compared to 53% of those aged 25 and over. One simple reason for this is that there just isn't much information out there targeting young people and showing that politics 'happens' outside of voting time. Keeping 16-24 year-olds engaged after election time demonstrates to them that they are valued and their voice is important, which can change the attitudes of those who haven't voted and continue to engage the people who have or will vote in future.

Youth participation in this year's general election has been higher than previous years, with turnout nationally estimated at 60% (a 17% increase from 2015), but it could be even better. From Corbyn's interview with Grime artist JME to E4 TV spots featuring young influencers, we've seen some clever ways to capture young people's attention this election time. However, there's still room for improvement. Young people shouldn't just be told to vote - they should feel confident in their voting choice, and be motivated to continue their engagement.

Now that the election is over, it's crucial to keep politics relevant for young people by providing the information they want, in the way they want it. 


Andrew Cummings and Alice Tillett 

2CV London