Don’t blame young voters for not bothering about the EU Referendum:

This article has been published on The Conversation:

Never before have so many had to decide on something they knew or cared so little about.

The “London bubble” is obsessing about the EU referendum on June 23. The parts of Twitter I see are hyperventilating with excitement over designation, debates, purdah, net costs and benefits, and the like. But the majority of the country could not give a fig.

This matters. It matters because the decision is an important one. And it matters because young people in particular, who have more at stake than anyone else, have the least interest in, and least knowledge about, the EU.

Short attention spans

On one level, this is normal. Let’s face it, as Peter Foster of The Telegraph pointed out some weeks ago, even when it comes to events that political aficionados think are capturing public attention, the reality is that long periods of profound uninterest are punctuated by very short spikes of attention. Using Google searches as a proxy to capture “interest”, his findings are depressing to all those who feel “the people” should be interested in politics.

Interest in the 2015 general election matched that in football for a couple of weeks before polling day but quickly dropped below searches for The X Factor – which was not even airing at the time. And even when it came to the Scottish referendum, held up by commentators as emblematic of the way popular enthusiasm can be aroused by politics, much the same occurred. Even during the week of September 14, as Foster showed, interest in football far outstripped (by a factor of two to one) that in the Scottish vote across the UK. Within a week, the Great British Bake Off and Strictly Come Dancing had reasserted themselves as the main focus of public attention.

Insofar as people care about politics at all, they only seem to do so for very short periods of time. This should give pause for thought for those of us already starting to tire of a campaign that has only just officially started.

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Written by By Patrick Magill

Project Assistant working alongside Dr Darren Sharpe on a number of youth funded projects that is in conjunction with The University of East London.