Social Action as a Route to the Ballot Box: How Volunteering helps Young People Engage with Politics
This week’s seminar will be presented by Dr Stuart Fox,
Lecturer in British Politics, Brunel University London
One of the defining political features of young people in the UK is their unusually low turnout compared with previous generations at the same age, a characteristic that leaves them under-represented in public debate and government thinking. Finding ways of closing this gap and encouraging more young people to engage with politics and vote in elections is a priority for anyone concerned about the health and vibrancy of British democracy. Typically, policies intended to achieve this have focussed on lowering the voting age or introducing various forms of political education. Far more public money is spent every year, however, on the promotion and facilitation of volunteering among young people. Previous research has suggested that young people who volunteer become more likely to vote as a result. However, such studies have been severely limited by the lack of available data to study the link between volunteering and voting, and their inability to account for ‘confounding effects’ i.e., the propensity of children who volunteer to vote when they are adults regardless because of childhood experiences (such as being raised by politically active parents) that make both childhood volunteering and adult voting more likely. Social Action as a Route to the Ballot Box has used the UK Household Longitudinal Study to overcome this limitation and examined whether children who volunteer become more likely to vote when they are older, and whether this benefit is more pronounced for those young people we know to be typically the least likely to vote. It has found that volunteering does indeed increase young people’s engagement with politics, but only for those who were raised in politically disengaged households. The study shows a need for the focus on the consequences of volunteering, and efforts to encourage more youth volunteering, to shift towards those in the poorest and hardest to reach sections of our communities.
To join the seminar, email email@example.com for the Zoom information.