The results of the UK election today were surprising. None of the opinion polls predicted the outcome. I was also surprised by how engaged young people were in this election and how passionate they were about it. This is the first election I've been properly engaged in myself, so observing the results and people's reactions has been fascinating.
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For the past few days I've watched my peers get into heated debates over who they believe are the best party and who they would vote for if given the opportunity. Even those I wouldn't expect to take an interest in politics had a view. I think the spark to this wide interest was the use of social media. As soon as the Conservative majority was declared, my twitter feed was flooded with fellow internet kids expressing their views. Social media has engaged young people in the election. Whether it was looking at the election Snapchat story or reading about the Green party on Tumblr, social media has allowed young people to be exposed to a vast range of opinions, allowing them to form independent views. I've heard it said many times that young people aren't interested in politics, but in my view they have been keenly interested in this election. It is perhaps because this election was so close and opinion polls said there could have been any number of outcomes. That made it interesting for everyone.
In this digital age, young people have access to thousands of resources and opinions which can educate and inform them on politics. Their views can be expressed and shared, reaching people all over the country. What I've seen over the last few days has made me ask the question of whether the voting age for the General Election should be lowered to 16. At 16, you gain access to new responsibilities. You can legally join the armed forces, get married, get a job, have sex, be charged with a crime - you are a fully fledged member of 'adult' society. You could argue it's the people of my generation who will inherit the decisions made in this Parliament, so should we not have a say in who is elected?
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One argument against would be that 16 year olds wouldn't know enough about the parties and their policies to make an informed decision. You could also argue that the major issues don't affect us teenagers. I don't have to deal with income tax increases or the non-dom status.
These arguments have merit, but based on what I've seen over the last few days, a large number of people are interested in, engaged in and informed about politics, partly due to social media and their access to various opinions. The Scottish Referendum was a prime example of 16-17 year olds being given the chance to vote on an issue that would affect their future. More than 100,000 16-17 year olds voted on the issue, embracing this new opportunity. I hope this sets a precedent. I'd vote yes on this issue.
I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments. What were your opinions about the election and do you think we should lower the voting age?