Young Voters Are Disillusioned, not Apathetic

Young Voters Are Disillusioned, not Apathetic
A girl wearing Kurdish colors waits with her mother in a queue at a polling station during a vote for Kurdish independence, in Kirkuk, Sept. 25, 2017 (AP photo by Bram Janssen).

On Nov. 22, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the Confederation of British Industry, a local business organization, in a speech that was intended to focus on the U.K.’s role in the “green industrial revolution”—the global shift to environmentally friendly energies and technologies. Instead, the talk quickly collapsed into incoherent rambling. At one point, Johnson, having lost his place in his notes, even went on a tangent about his love of Peppa Pig World­, a family theme park based on the well-known children’s cartoon. 

This was undoubtedly comedic, but as the country reveled in the prime minister’s latest embarrassment, I couldn’t help but feel a little despondent. Watching my nation’s leader imitate the sound of a gas-powered engine and sing the praises of a kids’ show, it occurred to me just how out of touch Johnson really is. Far wealthier than the average U.K. citizen, he has little in common with the people whose lives his decisions will affect. And at age 57, there is not much that connects Johnson with the young people whose futures his time in office will dictate. 

This disconnect has played out very obviously during the coronavirus pandemic. Johnson and his government have repeatedly used young people as “convenient scapegoats for the government’s failings,” as Guardian editor Larry Elliot put it, blaming the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the country on this group’s waning patience with coronavirus restrictions. It is unsurprising therefore, that so many of the U.K.’s young people feel let down by and disillusioned with their government. 

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