Youth and Politics: We are here in a different way

Kathleen Belsten / June 27, 2013 03:38 PM

The ABC recently published a piece titled, "The Youth don't care, but they should" in conjunction with polling done by the Australia Institute which indicated a lack of youth interest in politics. 

They surveyed more than 800 people aged 17-25 about their voting intentions and found three quarters of people didn't know who their friends vote for and a third didn't know who their parents voted for.

This apparently indicates that there was not much political chatter happening at all.But this conclusion is based on a narrow definition of political engagement that older generations use to measure our involvement.

You'll find young people are more engaged than most people would believe.

The same young people that represent 12 per cent of the vote and might have determined the past four elections, according to the Whitlam Institute.

I have no idea where people are finding these "disengaged youth", because online it is impossible to avoid politics no matter what age group you are in. Particularly in the last week where on the 26 June Rudd came back for #Kevenge won the ballot special caucus in a #Ruddslide (57 votes to 45).

Kevin's Revenge

This is how the youth engage with politics: with puns, hashtags and memes. It might be a different approach to politics, one seen as a more shallow, but young are not alone. It is how a lot of Australians are engaging with politics. 

Those who were interested or wanted to be involved in the Ruddmentum of yesterday's events tweeted the happenings throughout the day. It started with the apparent petition by the Ruddinator's supporters to oust Julia Gillard. 

Twitter post

Then as the events unfolded before the 7pm ballot, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts were detailing the events and adding pictures of what they expected. 

Kevin Rudd vs Julia Gillard

After the Ruddrection or Kevin Rudd becoming PM again, the page 'Keven Rud' got a lot of attention with interesting and hilarious images like a parody of Mean Girls. 

Mean Girls Politics

This page has almost 50,000 likes and was created just over a month ago.

Facebook pages like 'Keven Rud' and 'Julia Gillard - Worst PM in Australian History' are a good representation of how people who use social media, particularly youth, view our politicians. 

Kevin Rudd Knitting

But when the prime ministers show an interest in youth, there are almost always results. The Kevin 07 campaign managed to rally a huge number of young votes with almost half of all the younger voters voting Labor. 

Barack Obama's 2008 Presidential Campaign is a good example of a brilliant engagement with young people, particularly online. 

Barack Obama's 2008 campaign 

He is commonly seen as an in touch, inspiring leader and he is still President, so he must be doing something right. 

There is perhaps a fair question about the depth of our engagement. 

We are growing up as the info-besity generation passively using technology to keep up with what is going on, but we do not get too deeply involved. It's an issue affecting Australians now in more ways than just politics, and is not something only afflicting the younger generations. 

When it comes to youth engagement in politics there is hardly a difference from generations in the past. 

We have many inspiring young people going into politics like MP for Longman Wyatt Roy who is only 23. 

There is also the Youth Climate Coalition which has more than 70,000 young members, doubling the national membership of the ALP. 

Last year, it partnered with the Foundation for Young Australians to fly seven students to Canberra to ask Peter Garrett about education reforms. This came after 4500 13 to 18-year-olds were asked about policy questions they really care about. 

People will always care about issues that affect them, including young people. Young people are more inclined to care about climate change, study, work opportunities and discrimination. 

We are engaged with our surroundings, just not with our politicians. 

Kevinator is back