The Syndey Morning Herald today reports that “Politics a turn-off for gen Y” (read it here). Their main point is that today’s young people are not apathetic about politics, that simply don’t believe that the current form democracy is taking (multi-party spin doctoring) is an acceptable way of making your voice heard. Members of Gen X and Gen Y alike are not interested in watsing their time on token displays of civic duty that achieve nothing, or on supporting sham politicians’ empty lies. Their lack of involvement in politics is therefore a very specific and deliberate choice – not merely a result of apathy.
This opens up a significant door of opportunity for any political party that is prepared to go beyond politicking. As these young generations grow up, and generation wars loom on a variety of issues (from retirement funding to environmentalism, from education to defense spending), there must be a political party in some democratic country that is going to target these young voters and provide them with what they’re looking for. I personally think they’ll scoop up a massive constituency – and this could be a huge balance of power shift in typical democracies where the voter turnout rate for elections is typically well below half of eligible voters.
A NUMBER of political parties would like to claim generation Y – Australians born in the early 1980s, now in their late teens and early 20s – as their own. But discussion about the political outlook of gen Y rarely reaches beyond conclusions of “apathy” and “conservatism”.
There are some basic truths about generation Y’s attitude to politics: they are turned off, annoyed by and distrustful of political parties, politicians and increasingly the media that is supposed to keep them honest. Few see mainstream politics as a useful vehicle for changing the world. But they do care about political issues.
In the minds of political scientists, generation Y is just like the generation before it: generation X, the original apathetic and antipolitical slackers. This charge of political apathy was forged out of an unfair comparison with baby boomers, those 1960s and 1970s radicals. Unfair because there is ample evidence that young people have always felt left out and cynical when it comes to politics.
Instead of seeing generation Y’s lack of interest in party politics as evidence of their apathy, it should be seen as an indication of just how unappealing political parties have become.