Youth Electoral Study (YES) - Report 3: 7. Conclusions

Updated: 20 January 2011

7. Conclusions

This report has highlighted both diversity and some trends in the way that young people learn about politics, enrolling to vote and voting with their families. There is no doubt that for most young people 'the family', and particularly parents, directly or indirectly, plays a signficiant role in giving young people a foundation upon which to build their own views of politics and democratic participation through voting. It was found that some families are better equipped in terms of resources in providing this information than others. It also highlights the importance of the school in levelling the playing field in terms of what is learned at home.

It was also discovered, however, that most young people are 'active' learners about politics, if not active participants, and that they turn to a number of sources for their political information. This supports criticism of the more traditional political socialisation literature discussed earlier. Of interest was that the 'activism' of many in terms of wanting to establish their own political views was in stark contrast to the passivity played in terms of enrolling to vote. Here participants waited for the opportunity to present itself rather than actively seeking it out. Also of interest was that whereas participants frequently challenged parental political views and opinions they tended to accept parental descriptions and assessments of voting without question, most of which were negative. Many also had negative views of voting drawn from childhood experiences at polling booths. Finally although there was evidence that many participants did discuss politics with their parents, and that parents did reveal their feelings about voting, there was little evidence that parents provided factual information about what was expected of citizens when they voted.

Another interesting and perhaps significant trend was in respect to 'gendered labour' within the family in terms of providing information about politics and ensuring that young people fulfill the obligation of enrolling to vote. Young people tended to name their fathers as discussants about politics, but relied on their mothers to assist in the procedural aspects of enrolling to vote. Although no causal relationship between this familial gendered division of labour and a 'participation gender gap' can be deduced this is an interesting aspect of the gender gap.

In conclusion this report describes both the importance of the family and its complexity in terms of an arena in which young people learn about politics, enrolling to vote and voting.

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