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Labour's performance in the 2017 election was not actually caused by a 'youthquake'


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Labour’s unexpectedly strong performance in the 2017 General Election was not caused by the rise in youth turnout, according to the British Election Study Team.

After the Conversatives lost their majority in the general election they called, a theory arose that Jeremy Corbyn had spread enthusiasm in young voters, who are often seen as disengaged, causing them to vote for Labour.

It is certain that Corbyn is popular with young people, and polling organisations have suggested that 18 to 24-year-olds turnout increased by as much as 12 percentage points.

All this supported the theory of youth mobilisation. The Oxford English Dictionary even accepted it, adding the word "youthquake", defined as the political awakening of millennial voters.

Yet, new results show that there was only little change in the election turnout by age group between the 2015 and 2017 elections. They also reveal that older voters had a higher predicted probability of voting. 

Combined with those results and that the overall turnout only went up by 2.5 percentage points for the last election, it seems that the unexpected shift in age-turnout and Labour’s success have no relationships.

While Corbyn’s strategy was to increase youth turnout, Labour’s popularity actually increased in all group ages, except for those aged over 70. Indeed, older age groups were more likely to vote for the Conservatives, as many UKIP voters switched after the Brexit referendum.

Some still support the "youthquake" theory, however, as turnout went up in constituencies with more young voters. Indeed, for every percentage point increase of 18 to 29-year-olds living in the constituency, turn out went up by 0.1 compared to 2015.

Yet, this correlation may not be as straightforward. Indeed, for every percentage increase in nought to 4-year-olds living in the constituency, turnout went up by 0.9 percentage points. A sudden surge in toddlers voters is obviously ridiculous. Thus it is not because turnout in constituencies with young people increased that this extra turnout was necessarily those young adults.

The British Election Study interacts face-to-face with randomly chosen people across the country. While this study may not seem perfect, the results are as close to the truth as we're likely to get.

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