The 2007 and 2010 Australian federal elections saw a changing of the guard in youth voting trends. More than ever before, Australia's youth vote is playing a pivotal role in producing results in state and federal elections.
The capacity of youth to cut directly to the heart of issues and independently mobilise resources to achieve policy goals, has now been tested and verified at two federal elections.
'Kevin07' rode a youth wave to victory in 2007, and in 2010 the Greens, powered by issues-based policy and bolstered by protest votes, gained a valuable foothold in the Lower house, and now hold the balance of power in the Senate.
Political tacticians and campaign strategists continue to ignore this significant demographic at their own risk.
Youth voters are broadly limited as those between the ages of 18 and 25, although should perhaps be extended 16 to 30 years of age with regard to future voting trends.
Changes in technology have facilitated access to more information from a wider variety of sources. As the Internet makes access to information easier and connects interest groups with constituents regardless of physical distance, traditional parties are losing their stranglehold on the dissemination of political information.
Now more than ever before, young voters are questioning the information they're presented, and happy to call 'bullshit' when they find it.
In generations gone by, a likely indicator of how a young person would vote was how their parents voted. Party loyalty was somewhat hereditary. The current generations, colloquially known as Gen X and Y respectively, do not feel this same adherence to voting trends. In fact, they seem to be setting a new one.
Youth voters show none of the political apathy for which they are so often cited. Associate Professor Ariadne Vromen from the University of Sydney's Department of Government and International Relations wrote:
"Young people aren't necessarily looking to established political parties any more as a way to get involved. They are much more likely to be involved in issue-based and online organisations that encourage activism."
One would be hard pressed to deny that Australia's youth are issues based voters. Kevin Rudd's 2007 campaign was based on close-to-the-heart policies for young people: Climate change, immigration and the apology to the Stolen Generation. Polls in 2007 indicated a towering 52 per cent support for Kevin Rudd among youth voters.
In 2010, voter dissatisfaction with the two major parties was rife, and perhaps no more keenly felt than in young people. After all, it had been their support for key issues that had pushed a 5.44 per cent swing towards Labor in 2007.
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