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Young people overwhelmingly in favour of lowering voting age to 16

May 13, 2014

At this weekend’s European Youth Event, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, as part of its YO!Fest the European Youth Forum organised a stand as well as a debate about one of its key demands: to lower the voting age to 16. The Youth Forum also advocates for this to be accompanied by civic education as an obligatory element of the (non)formal education system.

The stand’s “voting tool” proved to be extremely popular with one participant per minute casting their vote over the two days. This tool posed several questions, including whether the voting age should be lowered to the age of 16 and whether European political parties should be obliged to reserve places on their lists of candidates specifically for younger candidates.

Of the 572 young people that voted, the vast majority were in favour of lowering the voting age, with those in the lower age bracket (16-18 years old) more likely to be in favour of having the vote at 16: 87.6% voted yes to this, compared to 71% of those aged 18+. The results when asked about young candidates were similar with almost 70% of both age groups thinking that reserved places for young candidates should be compulsory.

The statistics on which political party young people would vote for were revealing. Amongst 16-18 year olds the EPP had the largest share of the vote, at 27.8%, with the Socialists & Democrats coming second with 18.6% of the vote and the Greens taking 17.5% of the vote. This poll is particularly interesting as it reflects quite closely the current composition of the European Parliament and therefore disproves critics of lowering the voting age, who argue that those under the age of 18 are more likely to be won over by extreme groups. For those over the age of 18, the Greens took the majority of the vote (32.4%), with the EPP coming second (20.6%) and the ALDE taking the third spot (18.1%).

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The Youth Forum, along with the Estonian Youth Council (ENL) also organised a debate on lowering the voting age to 16. Among the speakers were: Austrian MEP Heinz K. Becker (who spoke in favour), Christoph Schmidt, from the German Young Christian Democrats, who spoke against and Benjamin Bowman, an academic from the University of Bath, who brought in a more neutral academic point of view.

The debate was balanced, but public interest and feeling from the audience was strong. There were controversial comments from the audience; one participant said that young people show less and less morality, so they should not be given the right to vote. However, this was not representative of the tone of the debate, which was rather in favour of Vote@16. MEP Becker brought forward an interesting argument, saying that if youth participation declines, the older generation (also considering the general ageing of the population) is given much more power and oversight, which creates an imbalance. He also said that, if reelected, he would like to bring the topic back to the debate on European level. Another interesting possible alternative to vote at 16, was that one participant suggested the ‘family vote’ (i.e. giving the right to vote to a whole family).


European Youth Forum AISBL

Rue de l’Industrie 10, 1000 Brussels

Tel.: +32 2 793 75 20
Fax : +32 2 893 25 80
youthforum@youthforum.org

With the support of
The European Commission
The European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe