Millennials Come of Age in UK Election

London, June 9, 2017: The only cohort in British society for whom voter fatigue does not appear to have been an issue with the general election was the young adult, Millennial demographic.

The voting public has been called upon to cast too many votes in recent times.  Cynicism is always heightened when voters are tired of politics and politicians. For all that, though, there are some important shifts which will emerge as a direct consequence of the result. Perhaps the most lasting is the fact that Millennial generation - and especially the component aged 18-25 - has now come of age as a fully fledged force for change in British politics. 

In the story of every generation, there comes a moment when its interests are first taken seriously by the ruling classes. 

For the Millennial generation, the tipping point came post-Brexit. Many young adults, particularly in urban centres like London, felt disenfranchised by a vote they felt had been hijacked by self-interested older people. Meanwhile, politically engaged Millennials, realising that many of their peers had failed to vote in the Brexit poll, committed to getting their peers more involved in future elections.

In yesterdays poll, it seems that younger voters welcomed with both arms the opportunity to cast a vote on issues which they saw as central to their collective future. Those issues extended well beyond Brexit. They featured questions relating education, taxation, social justice and more.

An often forgotten component when it comes to how Millennials view the political landscape is their expectation gap. Raised in mostly prosperous and peaceful times, where education has been of a relatively high standard, Millennials have grown up expecting to inherit a very different world to the one they encounter upon leaving school.

They emerge from formal education expecting to be in demand when it comes to employment. They expect to have a standard of living at least equal to that of their parents. They expect to be able to write a unique generational story, bringing to bear their distinctive skills in collaboration and innovation and their technological savvy.

These expectations are not always the result of self-obsession; young people expect these things because their parents and teachers have encouraged them to.

In reality, young adult Millennials discover that housing costs are beyond their reach. They realise that steadily falling ratios of workers to pensioners - set to halve across Europe in the next 20 years - will eventually mean higher tax rates for them.

Whats more, they leave tertiary education with a bill previous modern generations were not expected to pay. And universities continue to charge them the maximum allowable fees, without necessarily providing value for money.

As a result, Millennials are perhaps more inclined than their elders to vote for substantial change to the status quo. This is not necessarily a product of naivete, but it certainly fails at times to take into account the history of political and social change. In todays context, for example, politics would be well served if more young adults studied what champagne socialists like Mr Corbyn are inclined to do when they get close to positions of real power. Not least in terms of higher taxes and international borrowing to support exorbitant public spending.

With the recognition of Millennials as a powerful voting bloc, social media will now (belatedly) become a core political weapon. For most established British politicians it seems that social media has been seen as merely an adjunct to old-school news sources such as newspapers and TV and radio programming. Not any more.

While quantifiable data is still unavailable, Mr Corbyns team may have made a better job than their opponents of facilitating social media messaging to and among younger adherents. Social media is a great place for viral thinking. It produces the impression that organisations are open to outside ideas and running as flat structures. Once that notion is embedded in the minds of voters the sense of ownership can foster an almost evangelical fervour. No message spreads faster than a message that carries personal conviction.

In the digital revolution, firing up the party base is just not enough. Making converts - and political missionaries - is now the name of the game. Millennials are the key to both.

Author: Mal Fletcher 
Chairman 2020Plus 

© Copyright with Mal Fletcher

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