I think we’ve all heard it before: vote – it’s your civic duty. Vote – if you don’t, you can’t complain. Glossy pamphlets and sleek social media bombard us every three years begging us to vote, for the less than 20-minutes of our time to tick off a piece of paper.
Yet many of us millennials don’t vote. In the last General Election, only 62% of us voted, and this statistic is even worse in Local Body Elections, which we are faced with later this year.
While the internet is abundant with opinion pieces and statistics on why we don’t vote, campaigns need to realise the millennial demographic are not as easy campaign targets as previous generations. We don’t see television ads or opening addresses – in the age of Netflix and online streaming most of us don’t even watch on-air television.
Newspapers, unless they are given away free on campus (#BringBackTheDom), are just a waste of paper production, as we are more likely to get our news headlines from Facebook, Twitter or Reddit, and even then it’s not much more than a single headline and paragraph.
Traditional campaign methods of door knocking and phone canvassing usually miss our entire demographic because of our transient nature brought around by the rental market. The only people calling us on landlines are telemarketers.
This is the world that millennials live in, and it’s the one the majority of us will live in the rest of our lives in, as we use the internet for education, socialising, and working. We’re spending huge amounts of our lives online – the average millennial spends 27-hours online per week, more than half the amount of hours that we should be sleeping. Yet attempts to bring elections into the 21st Century have fallen short of our expectations.
The use of social media by politicians are cringe-worthy (under-the-chin selfies anyone?), boring (anyone want to see another tweet of a supermarket opening?), or ingenuine. Many of the 'memes' and posts just feel like your parents talking to you about why you should listen to them (as they obviously know better).
The only true promise that maybe, maybe, elections are catching up with our generation is the prospect of online voting. Our online locations are the true constant between our flat hopping, where we know our ballot papers will truly reach us. While concerns around security are genuine, the majority of us trust online security enough for our banking details and credit card.
But online voting isn’t the be-all and end-all of millennial engagement. Do you want young people to vote? Introduce policies and promises that actually speak to us. A paradox exists in which many young people won’t vote because no one's speaking to them. Yet many politicians won’t target young people because they won’t vote. It’s no coincidence the biggest cost to taxpayers is superannuation, yet any attempt to alleviate the growing burden it presents is shot down as political suicide, because of the 88% of over 65 year olds who do actually vote.
Of course, this paradox can be broken. A record number of 18-30 years olds turned out to vote in 2005, thanks to Labour’s Interest-Free Student Loans policy. Indeed, many analysts say it was this young-people vote that scraped Labour into their third term.
Young people do have the power to make or change the government if anyone’s willing to give us a chance. That’s why I congratulate Justin Lester and Daran Ponter on their policy to subsidise bus fares for tertiary students, and encourage all other candidates to step forward and promise a student friendly city. Our support and votes are there; we just need to be listened to.
Nathaniel Manning – Engagement Vice President