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Do young voters hold the power in Ipswich?

PUBLISHED: 18:30 10 December 2019 | UPDATED: 14:19 11 December 2019

Polling Station at Christchurch Park, Ipswich.  Picture: SARAH lUCY BROWN

Polling Station at Christchurch Park, Ipswich. Picture: SARAH lUCY BROWN

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Millions of young people have registered to vote in the election. In marginal seats such as Ipswich, their votes could be crucial

Polling Station at Christchurch Park, Ipswich.  Picture: SARAH lUCY BROWNPolling Station at Christchurch Park, Ipswich. Picture: SARAH lUCY BROWN

Young people just don't care about politics, do they? At least, that's the cliché that is trotted out every time we head to the ballot box. But is there really any truth in this line in 2019? As election day looms, young voters could well be the ones holding the power.

More than 3 million people have registered to vote since the election was called, and two-thirds of them are under the age of 35. More than a million of the newly-registered are aged under 25, and many will be casting their ballots for the first time on December 12. Could the "youthquake" of 2017 turn into a landslide in this general election?

With voter registrations 38% higher this year than before the 2017 election, it seems that young voters will play a key role in deciding our next PM. In the hotly-watched marginal seat of Ipswich, the youth vote could really come into play. The town has been picked as one of the top ten seats where students could wield the most power, with national paper The Guardian selecting it as an important marginal that could be swung by university voters. With Labour's Sandy Martin winning Ipswich from Conservative Ben Gummer by just 831 votes in 2017, this December, the 5000+ students at the University of Suffolk could hold the balance of power.

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Even in safe seats, young people appear more politically engaged and active than in years past. In many ways, 2019 has been a year of youth activism - where young people have found a voice and have begun to fight for their future. Across the globe, it has been young people who have led the fight against climate change, with 16-year old Greta Thunberg inspiring schoolchildren and students to take to the streets in protest of governmental inaction on global warming. On issues such as climate change, Brexit and electoral reform, young people are looking to drive political change. It's clear that young voters are tired of the status quo, and are thinking of the future and the world that they are going to inherit.

Polls show that 73% of under 25s voted to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum, and they are the ones who will be living with the after-effects of Brexit in the decades to come (if and when it eventually comes to pass, that is). Similarly, many young people feel that they are inheriting the issue of climate change from past generations, and will have to deal with the consequences of a warming planet. Younger voters also live in a very different world to that of their parents - one in which homeownership is an impossibility for many, and one in which unstable, gig-economy work is becoming the new normal. From Brexit to zero-hour contracts, these are the issues that are going to define the future for young people. Perhaps it shouldn't come as so much of a surprise, therefore, that young voters are signing up to make their voices heard at the ballot box.

In 2017, "youthquake" was declared the word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries, with analysts citing a strong youth turnout as one of the reasons for Labour's better-than-expected performance in the general election. Prompting the highest youth turnout in a quarter of a century, the 2017 election has been seen as something of a turning point for young voters. After heading to the polls in their droves for the 2016 EU referendum, young people continued to make their presence felt at the voting booth in 2017. And if this year's voter registration numbers are anything to go by, young people will once again be looking to wield their political power in our upcoming general election.

No longer ambivalent, unbothered and disinterested, today's youth are engaged, aware and ready to make themselves heard. Already this year, we've seen their protests filling our streets, town centres, newspaper columns and social media feeds. Now, we might just feel it at the ballot box.


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