British youth apathetic about election
April 25, 1997
Web posted at: 10:09 p.m. EDT (0209 GMT)
LONDON (CNN) -- From Oxford's genteel debating societies to
tattooed punk rockers, Britain's youth seems to speak with
the same voice about the May 1 election. And that voice seems
to be saying: "Who cares?"
A recent London concert, Rock The Vote, was put together to
boost enthusiasm for the voting, and drew a huge crowd
of cheering youths. But it's far from clear how many of those
rock fans will actually make it to the voting booths.
Pollsters expect the turnout of voters under 25 to be
dismally low, probably only about one-third of those
"I don't think whatever happens is going to make any
difference," said a young woman in a jean jacket, a pair of
fashionable sunglasses perched on top of her head.
But will she vote?
"Never have done, never will do," she chirped. Her friend
added simultaneously, "No, sorry."
It's a sentiment that echoed far longer and louder than the
"I would vote, if I knew more about it," said a dark-haired
woman in carefully applied makeup. "I would. But I don't. So
I'm not going (to vote)."
Even at tony Cambridge University, some of whose students
are training for government or public service careers, the
upcoming election raised more exasperation than enthusiasm.
"People are just sick and tired of all the bandying of words
and sound bites," said one earnest Cambridge man with a
five-o'clock shadow and a black jacket. "No real issues are
The apathy doesn't seem to spring from indifference: One
survey suggests that one-third of young Britons have
participated in some kind of demonstration.
Labour Party leader Tony Blair apparently wants to tap into
their interest -- and votes -- in his quest to defeat Conservative Party candidate John Major. In one promotional video, Blair
walks into a voting booth accompanied by enthusiastic young
But there's cynicism on the streets, and young people
commonly refer to politicians as corrupt or irrelevant.
"They're going to tell you what you want to get your vote,
and then after the elections it's a different story
altogether, isn't it?" said a young man with freckles and a
page boy haircut at London's free-spirited, open-air Camden
British youth seem to see no connection "between the
politicians in Parliament and what they care about," says
Kate O'Rourke of Rock The Vote.
That disconnectedness may be providing fuel for the Labour
Party, which is predicted to attract two out of three youth votes.
But how many of those voters will make it to the polls is an
And at one-sixth of Britain's total eligible voting
population, that is a swing group with enough force to end
the U.K.'s nearly two decades of Conservative Party dominance
-- which is the only governance most young Britons have
Correspondent Richard Blystone contributed to this report.
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