Engaging young people on any topic can be a difficult task – which makes it no surprise that getting them interested in politics can be just as difficult
According to a study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in 2000, young people were torn over what they wanted from politicians. Some wanted their representatives to take situations seriously, but others felt a more humorous view on politics would make politicians more approachable and relatable.
For female politicians, the task of sparking interest in their young constituents can be a difficult job. Although this could come down to a variety of reasons, I’m going to look at two.
Reason one, generally, in political positions, women are under represented. After the 2015 General Election, the number of female MPs in the UK increased by a third. Although this sounds quite impressive, the increase only meant that women made up 29% of Parliamentarians, up from 23%. With so few women represented in Parliament, it’s no surprise that it’s difficult to connect with their young constituents.
Second of all, many young people feel there are other women who are worth looking up to more than our female politicians – namely celebrity activists. In a survey I created, I discovered that 60% of those surveyed believed that celebrity opinion is worth listening to. Those who took part also agreed that one of the most politically influential female celebrities is Emma Watson; based on her campaign, ‘HeForShe’.
Many commented that celebrity opinion and the roles they play in forcing political change, are key to engaging young people. One even stated that this is because young people are more exposed to celebrities than politicians – primarily through social media. It would seem that if our favourite celebrities express their political or even ethical views, we are more likely to relate to them. This could also be brought down to many celebrities being closer to a young person’s age than a politician would be. Hearing the views of those with similar concerns to your own can help encourage someone to become more politically engaged.
But when young people are so conflicted over how they want their representatives to act, it’s hard to determine what move would be best for politicians. Do they become more relatable or do they remain as they are – stern and very ‘political’? For female politicians this seems to be a heftier task. During the US elections, Hillary Clinton showed that a female politician will often face serious backlash for trying to be more relevant. It must be said, you can a like a politician, but your opinion of them drops with ridiculous speed once they ‘dab‘ on national television.
Maybe there is no right way to do politics, you’re always going to end up disappointing someone. However, all politicians really need to change how they behave with their young voters. If they don’t, that’s a large demographic completely lost.