READER REPORT:

Youth voters want respect, just like everyone else

New Zealand politicians would do well to take a leaf out of Jeremy Corbyn's book.
Stuff

New Zealand politicians would do well to take a leaf out of Jeremy Corbyn's book.

A lot has been said in the media about why young people don't turn up and vote.

It's true, three out of five young people didn’t vote in the last election. I didn’t vote because I was 13, and I’m not voting this time round because I’ll be 16 (although there’s a lot of people who say I should be able to).

It’s not because we’re lazy, it’s not because we’re uninformed, it’s because we’re looking for exactly what every other voting demographic is looking for - policies and politicians that actually appeal to us and our interests.

What do youth voters want?

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We face real problems. Rising levels of student debt. A job market that’s forcing us into precarious work. A housing crisis that’s locking us out. Education that forces us to conform to inflexible national standards. Mental health services that are so bad that many have given up on the system entirely, and many have done far worse. Benefit systems that trap us in poverty and fear.

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We young people don’t like young candidates such as Chloe Swarbrick, Jacinda Ardern, Nikki Kaye, and Justin Lester specifically because they’re young, we like them because they’re authentic and give real solutions to these real problems.

And when they don’t have those solutions, they’re honest about it. They don’t pander to us, they don’t belittle us (just Google "Hillary Clinton student loan emoji" to see how well that goes), they respect us and offer real policy solutions.

When politicians adopt these ways of thinking, we reward that.

Look at Jeremy Corbyn in the UK. In no way could he could be described as a "young politician", but he was able to win millions of young peoples’ votes. How? By the simple method of listening to our problems and coming up with solutions. It’s a tactic New Zealand politicians would do well to copy.

And, to their credit, many have. Labour and the Greens have announced free tertiary education, changes to employment law that reduce precarious work, solutions for the housing crisis, flexibility for the education system, mental health services that actually help us, and benefit systems that actually provide benefit. Because of these policies, they should expect an increase in their youth vote this time round.

You may call it pandering. It’s the provision of policies that benefit a target demographic - I call it politics.

While organisations like RockEnrol are doing an absolutely amazing job, and while online voting would lower the barrier in disadvantaged communities, all the enrolment schemes and new mechanisms in the world won’t do anything if we don’t feel like the candidates are working for us.

We like honesty, authenticity, and empathy, and we reward politicians who practise them. We deserve to be taken seriously, as do our issues, and we reward politicians who do so. We embrace diversity and diverse candidates.

All in all, politicians only need to do one thing to get our votes: inspire us to hand them over.

If you don’t, you’ll get beaten by the ones who do, and the ones who already are. That’s politics.

 

 - Stuff Nation

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