As an American, I eagerly stayed up the night of the 2016 election, anxiously awaiting the results to come out. It was a divisive and hotly contended election, and by all accounts one of the most important in recent memory. Now, here in the U.K., I’m seeing a parallel election begin to shape up, one which will shape the future of Britain for a long time to come. There were plenty of lessons I learned from watching the 2016 U.S. election, but one of the most powerful was how far the country had to go in terms of civic participation from young people. That’s not to disparage the turnout we did have. According to Tufts university’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), an impressive 50% of citizens between 18 and 29 turned out to vote.
What’s more impressive is how much of an impact Millennials had on the election, and how close we came to altering its outcome. Millennials supported Clinton significantly more than Trump, and in several critical states the Millennials almost pushed Clinton to victory. A slightly higher millennial turnout may have altered the result of the election. Now, as Britain approaches its own pivotal election, I see a major parallel here. British Millennials, like their American counterparts, have a whole array of issues which are unique to them, and like youth from across the world, they are the ones who will have to live with the long-term results of the election.
Given the powerful role us youths were able to play in the American election, it stands to reason that young Brits could have a similar impact. Yet British youths are not turning out in the numbers needed to make their voices heard. During the 2015 general election, admittedly not quite as interesting as some more recent votes, only 43% of Brits from 18 to 24 voted. Worse still was the Brexit referendum which, despite impacting young people’s lives the most (since they’ll be alive the longest), saw only 36% of young people vote.
If you want your voice heard, if you want to shape your future, you have to vote. In a democratic country that’s the biggest power the average citizen has, and it’s so important to exercise. In America, a slightly higher turnout by Millennials could have made a major difference. Similarly, in the Brexit referendum, a major turnout by youths may have led to a totally different political situation today. If you want the government to pay attention to the huge issues we’re facing as young adults making our way in the world, you have to vote.