(YES) - Report 4: 8. Conclusion: The Policy Implications of Youth Party Identity for Enrolment and Voting

Updated: 24 January 2011

8. Conclusion: The Policy Implications of Youth Party Identity for Enrolment and Voting

As long as the Australian political system is based on party politics and a Westminster Parliamentary government, and voting is more focused on party policies rather than on individual charisma, then the formation of party identity among young people, as a part of civics and citizenship education, is essential. Although our report has demonstrated the high degree of party inheritance through the family, there is also evidence that other factors contribute to party identity. First, in our survey the more than half of the young people who did not name a party show how much remains to be done to get young people more involved with the party-based electoral system. Second, some young people do name a party, but do so by realigning themselves with a party other than that of their parents (Campbell 2002). So clearly there is much that can be done to make civics and citizenship education more party sensitive.

One of the fears which often characterises civics and citizenship education is that it can become a partisan exercise. But there is no reason why political parties, their ideologies, their policy platforms, and their membership cannot become a more central part of the curriculum. Some writers have suggested that part of problem, at least in the UK and Europe, lies with the political parties themselves, and also the emergence of the new "career politicians". The implications of these developments are that the political parties, and the politicians within them, are becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate or are seen as irrelevant (Russell 2005; Henn, Weinstein, and Forrest 2005).

Nevertheless, our data clearly show that party identification among Australian youth is somewhat low, and that more than half of our sample still has to make up its mind about which party, or "independent" candidates to support, before casting a vote in a Federal election for the first time. The only other option for those who have no party identification is to refrain from voting, spoiling the ballot, or guessing.

The purpose of our research is to identify ways in which young Australians can become more politically engaged, especially with respect to enrollment and voting. In this report we have shown that one way to improve the level of political engagement might be to raise the level of party awareness and party identification among young Australians. As long as political parties are an important part of Australian democracy, knowledge about them will be an important part of the political growth and political development of young people.