Election 2003: But Young Are Interested in Politics - MP

The Birmingham Post (England), April 24, 2003 | Go to article overview

Election 2003: But Young Are Interested in Politics - MP


Byline: Jonathan Walker

A bout two thirds of us are likely to stay away from the polls next week when elections take place for councils across England. But there is hope for the future of British democracy according to one Birmingham MP - who says young people are defying stereotypes and becoming interested in politics.

Richard Burden, Labour MP for Northfield and chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Electoral Reform, says a new study has disproved the theory that youngsters are apathetic and uninterested in the world around them.

But he said it also carried a stark warning for the traditional parties-- because while young people felt strongly about a range of issues, they had little respect for politicians themselves.

The investigation, published and funded by the Economic & Social Research Council, asked 705 new voters aged 18 about their attitudes towards politics and democracy.

The study was conducted by researchers at Nottingham Trent University. When asked about politics in general, 56 per cent said they had some or more interest in the topic, and 54 per cent said they would discuss politics with family and friends.

However, 89 per cent reported they would not be prepared to give money to a political party and 84 per cent said they would not work for a political party in an election campaign. Only two per cent said they were a party member.

Mr Burden said: 'At the 2001 General Election, turnout among the electorate as a whole sunk to a post-war low of just 59 per cent.

'What is even more worrying is that only 39 per cent of young people voted. The results of the study are not a surprise. Last week, I spoke to a group of Year 10 pupils at a school in my constituency about the war in Iraq and a number of other issues.

'This was in response to an invitation from the pupils themselves. …

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