Youth participation in the electoral process is of great concern in Western democracies today. For many years we have known that young people are less likely to enroll to vote than older groups. This national study is attempting to uncover the reasons why this is so and also look at what motivates Australia's young people to participate.
This four year research project is a major national study by a team of researchers from the University of Sydney and the Australian National University working in conjunction with the Australian Electoral Commission. The research is funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC), through its ARC Linkage Grants program, as well as the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC). The project is being administered through the University of Sydney.
The Chief Investigators for the project are A/Professor Murray Print (Centre for Research & Teaching in Civics, University of Sydney) and Professor Larry Saha (Sociology, ANU), together with Dr Kathy Edwards as Senior Research Associate. The Partner Investigator is Gail Urbanski (Assistant Commissioner, Communications and Information Strategy). The Steering Committee is composed of the following: Gail Ubanski, Andrew Moyes (Assistant Commissioner, AEC), Tim Evans (Assistant Commissioner), A/Professor Murray Print and Professor Larry Saha.
The principal purpose of the project is to determine why many young people do not register on the Australian electoral roll. It has been estimated that there are approximately 300 000 young Australians, 18–24 years of age who do not vote in elections because they have not registered. Apart from the fact that voting is compulsory, the under-registration of eligible young people raises questions about their political interest and commitment.
A more fundamental purpose is to investigate the impact of disengaged youth on Australian democracy. Large numbers of non-participating youth have implications for the effectiveness and future of the Australian democratic political system.
Thus the project is investigating the underlying characteristics of those who do and do not register when they become eligible at age 17, and is focusing on the links between pro-voting behaviour and family, school and other social and psychological variables. The meaning of voting and other forms of active citizenship by Australian youth is being examined. Various current intervention strategies to improve registration will be analysed and new strategies will be proposed and developed.