Millennials, Political Disengagement & Brexit

As a Dane in the UK one of the things I value the most about British culture is the diversity and high level integration of people from a wide range of nations and cultures. Brexit has taught me that not all Britons value this as much as I thought. But, what worries me most about the EU referendum is who made the decision to leave. Millennials are constantly told that they are disengaged and lazy. Have you ever wondered why young people do not care about politics and feel disengaged from politics and the political system? Brexit illustrates it with depressing accuracy.

For the past year and a half AudienceNet have been conducting research for the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS) on young people’s engagement with politics. The Millennial Dialogue study has now been in 22 countries across the globe including the UK. What we find time and time again is that young people lack an interest in politics. In the UK just 11% said they were ‘very interested’ in politics, furthermore just 21% feel they are able to make their voice heard.

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Is it any wonder that young people don’t feel their voices are being heard when their future is being decided by people over the age of 50? YouGov polling data shows that 64% of 18-24 voted remain, compared to 33% of 65+ year olds who voted remain. Brexit shows that young people do care about politics, but they are disengaged from those in charge. As my colleague Rob eloquently explains “I can’t help but feel like I’m getting constantly shat on by generations before me”. It’s a democracy and Millennials make up just a fraction of the population compared to those born before 1980. The majority decides in a democracy, whether it’s their future at stake or not.

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From the Millennial Dialogue’s qualitative research, we found that young people do not trust politicians and they are tired of being lied too. In our online community conducted back in 2015 one UK Millennial said “I don’t trust any of them. They speak gobbledegook and dance around serious and important questions, spending more time attacking each other than actually defending their actions or explaining what they plan to do next.”. It is highly unlikely that the EU referendum has made young people more excited about politics with hateful statements and dubious facts being thrown around by politicians on both sides of the fence.

If there is one thing we can learn from Brexit it is that Millennials are disengaged from the older generations, who make decisions for them every day in parliaments across the works and in elections and referendums like Brexit. Let us call for politicians to listen to young people as we move forward with a post Brexit Britain. If young people do not feel like politicians listen to them even when they engage and go to the polls, why should they care?

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