23rd June 2017
On Thursday 22nd June, young people, academics, politicians and representatives from third sector organisations came together at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) in London. A year after the EU Referendum, this conference provided an opportunity to share and discuss the latest research on young people and the UK’s exit from the European Union, and to debate the ways in which young people could be better represented throughout the Brexit process.
The event was a culmination of WISERD’s Young People and Brexit project, an interdisciplinary study looking into how young people are responding to Brexit and how it is affecting their political engagement overall. It follows on from last year’s project which explored young people’s engagement with the EU Referendum.
The event was also an opportunity to consider the recent 2017 general election, which saw a greater turnout of young people than in recent decades. Drawing on data from a bespoke survey of youth attitudes towards the EU, conducted two months before the referendum, Chris Curtis from YouGov shared the latest data. He said: “Social class is no longer the big dividing line in British politics, age is now the biggest differentiator with the young backing Labour.”
Throughout the day, six panels presented delegates with a variety of topics, ranging from support for votes at 16, the intergenerational transmission of Euroscepticism, the role of social media, religion, social class, and the media in young people’s vote choice, young people’s trust in politicians, the #Votebecause project, the impact of Brexit on young people’s language and identity, and much more. Many of these topics were also covered in a series of research films featuring 23 young people that were produced as part of the project and screened for the first time during the event.
The final item of the day was a roundtable debate, and question and answer session with Leanne Wood AM, Assembly Member for Rhondda and leader of Plaid Cymru, Dr Andy Mycock from the University of Huddersfield and Caitlin Prowle, a young activist and member of the Welsh Co-operative Party.
The overwhelming view held amongst all the panellists was that young people are well informed about politics and have an appetite to learn more, but that nurturing the high engagement seen in the EU Referendum and general election will require some effort from policymakers. Caitlin Prowle proposed: “How will we learn unless you teach us?” This instigated interesting questions from the youngest members of the audience from a Cardiff school and Bristol City Youth Council, around the potential for more formal political education in school.
Dr Sioned Pearce, one of the lead WISERD researchers on the Young People and Brexit project said: “There were so many strong, positive themes coming out of the day – how well the mixed audience worked; the varied debates; the genuine interaction from young people with academic findings; the fact that so many experts came to present; the way all the issues discussed throughout the day came together in an engaging final session – showing us that youth political engagement matters to everyone involved, regardless of the lens they are looking through”
So despite the significant decrease in youth engagement in electoral politics, Millennials have become more interested in politics since Brexit. However, they are still the most politically apathetic generation in the history of British survey research. So the question remains, how long will the ‘Brexit effect’ last?
To read more about our findings from the Young People and Brexit project, read our blogs. If you attended the conference, as a presenter or a delegate, and would like to write a blog for us about your area of interest, please email WISERD.Comms@cardiff.ac.uk.
Pictured above: Dr Stuart Fox, WISERD, Cardiff University; Leanne Wood AM, Assembly Member for Rhondda and leader of Plaid Cymru; Dr Andy Mycock from the University of Huddersfield and Caitlin Prowle, member of the Welsh Co-operative Party.