The Votes at 16 Debate, Put Simply

According to YouGov polling, 60 per cent of British adults are against ‘reducing the voting age to 16 for all UK elections.’ So what are the arguments for and against lowering the voting age? It’s a complex topic but here the issue shall be Put Simply.

Arguments for

  • Can pay taxes at 16 so only fair they are given a say in how taxes are spent
  • Tackling political apathy: by empowering young people and engaging them in politics, they might be more likely to vote in the future and remain politically active
  • Have most to lose (and gain) from decisions; deserve role in shaping their future

Arguments against

  • Influence of school teachers at 16/17; 18 year olds have the knowledge to understand current affairs but are more likely to have developed their own views
  • Young people are more likely to be naïve and idealistic; by 18, individuals have enough life experience to make better informed judgements about the world
  • Although young people will be most affected by decisions, many adults are parents/grandparents who will consider future generations when voting anyway

What political parties and their leaders think

Theresa May, leader of the Conservative Party

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the UK Labour Party

Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrat Party (read more here)

  • “My experience of visiting schools and chatting to young people has shown what a worthwhile cause this is. 16 and 17 year olds are as politically engaged and committed to making the difference as everyone else.”
  • “I want the government to seriously look at Votes at 16 and see if we can give young people throughout the South Lakes the vote”

Paul Nuttall, United Kingdom Independence Party leader (read more here)

  • Sixteen-year-olds do not have enough life experience to make sound judgements when voting and consequently I am against reducing the age limit.
  • There is no doubt that young people should be encouraged to vote, after all today’s changes affect their tomorrows, but instead of lowering the age limit they should be properly educated about the relevance of politics to their lives,”

Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party (read more here)

  • Giving 16 and 17-year-olds the vote for the independence referendum is widely seen as having been a huge success, which added to the unprecedented democratic engagement of the campaign and the massive turnout
  • We want to make sure those same young adults now have the chance to vote in the next Scottish Parliament election, and have their say on how the country should be run

It’s worth noting that individuals in parties will have different views on the issue. There is no singular view and above is merely a reflection of the general attitudes of political parties.

The EU referendum

This issue was particularly contentious during the EU referendum campaign where 16 and 17 year olds were denied a vote. Although views ultimately depend upon the individual, research suggests that young people were more likely to vote to remain in the referendum. Hence, with a narrow winning margin of 52 to 48 per cent, allowing 16 and 17 year olds to vote could have altered the outcome of the EU referendum.

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