The EU Referendum and The Devaluing of the Youth Vote

I consider myself lucky. Thanks to internet access, I’m part of several communities, online and off, which nurture and encourage me to be an informed, thoughtful and participating citizen. I try to understand the complexities of big issues and perceive ideologies which lay outside my bubble of ethics in as unbiased a manner as possible. This is why I voted in the EU Referendum. I am one of the 73% of voters aged 18-24 who voted to remain in the European Union; an overwhelming majority.

We all have our own reasons for voting, with many students specifically benefiting from the EU. Many British universities gain financial aid from EU institutions and appreciate the relative ease of free movement and lesser fees when studying abroad in an EU country. Larger university focused institutions such as UCAS, The Russell Group and the University of Cambridge expressed disappointment in the result of the vote, claiming that Britain’s exit from the EU will result in uncertainties for many places of higher learning.

Whatever the reason we voted, with an overwhelming majority of younger voters wishing to remain in the EU, it’s unsurprising to note the frustration and despondency many now feel at being “outvoted” by older generations. Young voters have taken to social media to air their feelings, myself included, and some in a more explicit manner than others.  I was disappointed to see older users, mocking and devaluing young people’s opinions and involvement in this historic public vote. One particular meme which spread with snarky enthusiasm sarcastically claimed that those who expressed their views at the outcome were “suddenly experts in politics”.

I am not a politician. I am a concerned citizen. I am one of the hundreds of thousands of 18-24-year-olds who chose to care about this referendum and about its impact on the UK’s future.  My vote and opinion are worth just as much as every other individual. I’m grateful to live in a democratic country which takes my vote into account. There is no shame in being upset or angry about the referendum result- take pride in having an opinion and taking the responsibility as a voting citizen to express your views on how your country should be run.

The “youth vote” grows in power each time a public vote is held, with increasingly more young people seizing their right to have a say in how our country is governed. It isn’t easy. There are no mandatory classes which educate students on how the voting system – or really any aspect of the political system- works. Many have to seek out such information individually, but thanks to the internet, it’s becoming easier for them to educate themselves not only on how our country is governed but how to seek out unbiased information, unattached to the political agenda around which official party information and ideology is distributed. With such relatively new tools at our disposal, it’s evident why the youth vote is taking an ever-strengthening hold, and why results such as this one have emotions running high.

Younger voices continue to be heard in political spaces as yet more of us seek out the elusive truth hiding amongst the empty rhetoric of official campaigns. The unacceptable scorn and devaluing of the opinions of younger voters stem from something very positive – young people who have shirked the supposed apathy appointed to a whole generation and who, despite being overruled by their elders have subverted a negative stereotype by proving their concern and thoughtfulness. Faced with the label “Millenials”, a word so often dripping with the disapproval of older generations, we have often been framed as a generation apart from the rest, too deeply buried beneath a mound of social media, our faces obscured by our various screens and gadgets. With this vote, however, the youngest generation of eligible voters have proven such generalisations wrong. It angers me that when we do speak up, we are shouted down, our efforts scoffed at by those who assume they know better, but the answer to this problem is to continue being active, to continue speaking our minds. The generation assumed to be uninformed and pessimistic needs to continue to raise their voices, to encourage others to educate themselves, and to be excited that we are part of a generation who will be competent, informed and able to make such crucial decisions for our country in the future.

Let us know in the comments or on our twitter page (twitter.com/Student_Wire) if you agree with what has been said or if you voted Brexit in the referendum. We would love to hear your opinions.

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An English and Journalism student at the University of Lincoln. Lover of books, plants, animals and a good nap.

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