Did young voters let themselves down, or not?

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young people voting
This 'intention to vote' chart from the Liverpool Echo is roughly in line with what actually happened

Did young voters let themselves down? An opinion poll in The Guardian, conducted by Opinium, suggests not. It claims to show that 70% of young people voted in the EU Referendum.

This is so dramatically counter to the accepted wisdom that only one-third turned out, that it demanded further investigation. The New Colloquium asked Opinium for background data, but two weeks later they had not responded to our request.

How the low number of one-third turnout among 18-24s came to be reported is obviously worthy of deeper attention. Everywhere on social media (and in most other reports) even the young are accepting that they let themselves down.

young votersOne mistake that was made among commentators is that, in a referendum (unlike elections) no data is taken at polling stations. Therefore all data reporting the low turnout of 18-24 year olds is based on polling, which would typically take a sample of around 2,000 voters.

And it may be that everyone has been incredibly lazy and just depended on one single poll from SkyData, tweeted (above, right), but otherwise hard to find online.

New clue: not registering to vote

However, this – from the Independent – seems to put a finger on the possibility that Opinium’s high number is wrong: “The estimated population of 20–24-year-olds in 2015 was 3,806,471. (Of these) only 492,306 applied to register to vote in the months running up to the election. Many young voters would still have been on the electoral register from the General Election and local elections – this figure is to show that of the 2 million people who panic registered in the last weeks, only around one quarter were young voters.”

Appearing to back this up is an article on thisismoney.co.uk (link below). This digs into the numbers of young people registering to vote in the in the runup to the General Election in 2015. It also provides an easy to digest chart of how the numbers of newly eligible voters registering to vote fell dramatically in a five year period.

young voters

  • If you take the thisismoney chart (above)
  • in line with the number who panic-registered in the last weeks before the referendum (fewer than half a million were in the ‘young’ age bracket)
  • it is clear that Opinium’s figure of 70% of young people actually voting will not stand up to scrutiny.
Lesson learned: Your vote does count

So we are forced back to the fact that of young people who did vote, 75% voted Remain. But that is very different to saying that 75% (or even 70%) of young people voted in the referendum. Looking at the drop-off in registration above, and the fewer than half a million who panic-registered, and then look at the ‘intent vote’ chart at the top of the page, the fairly inevitable conclusion is that, yes, young people let themselves down.

Still, at least now they now: their vote would have made a difference.

The Guardian revises estimates of young people voting based on Opinium Poll

The Guardian crashes into its own argument

thisismoney.co.uk: How the numbers of young registering to vote fell 2010-2014

The Independent scolds young people for not engaging

The New Statesman explains why we’ll probably never have an accurate figure

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