Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Australian Federal Election 2016: record number of young people enrolled to vote on 2 July 2016 and they are passionate about the issues

Asylum seekers, marriage equality, and climate change outrank education, health, unemployment, housing affordability, and tax reform in importance according to young Australians, a detailed snapshot of voting intentions ahead of the 2016 Federal election has found.

The national survey of 3369 Australians aged between 12 and 25, conducted during April and May, found that while more than half of young voters had not yet decided who to vote for on July 2, they were very clear about the issues they want addressed.

A surge in electoral enrolments last month, which including more than 90,000 young Australians, lifted the number of voters under the age of 25 to a record 1.66 million.

With polling showing Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten neck-and-neck at the halfway point of the election campaign, young voters will have an unprecedented role in determining the outcome in dozens of electorates across the country.

Agenda for Action: What young Australians want from the 2016 Election, jointly conducted by the Australian Research Alliance for Children & Youth (ARACY) and Youth Action, the peak body representing young people and youth services in NSW, provides an unprecedented insight into the minds of young voters.

Survey participants were asked to identify the three topics they most wanted addressed during the election campaign. In total, answers fell into 360 categories, with the top responses being: support for asylum seekers (21 per cent); support for marriage equality (19 per cent); addressing climate change (16 per cent); policies supporting education (16 per cent); addressing unemployment (10 per cent); improved environmental policies (8 per cent); reform to the tax system (8 per cent); better health policies (7 per cent); more affordable housing (6 per cent); and increased education funding (5 per cent).
Respondents were also asked to rank ten key federal issues by importance level. Education topped the list, with 61.7 per cent saying it was “extremely important”, while 52.7 per cent gave the same ranking to health, 51.4 per cent to the environment, and 51 per cent to social justice. Last of the ten issues, with just 24.4 per cent describing it as very important, was foreign affairs, while 33.8 per cent gave the economy that ranking.

Asked who they intended to vote for, just a third had made their decision. Of those, 38 per cent said they would support the Greens, 34 per cent the Australian Labor Party, and 22 per cent nominated the Coalition.

Only 10 per cent of young people indicated they weren’t interested in voting, a figure which dropped off with age. Just four per cent of 20 to 25 year-olds said they were not interested in voting.

“While most young people are still unsure who they will vote for, they are much more certain about the issues that are important to them and that they want addressed,” Youth Action CEO Katie Acheson said.

“Our research has revealed that far from being solely concerned with issues that directly impact them, such as education, unemployment and housing affordability, young people are focused on broader social issues such as marriage equality, our treatment of asylum seekers, and climate change.

“The recent surge in the number of young people enrolling to vote, which will result in a record number of young Australians voting on July 2, highlights just how important it is for politicians of all persuasions to genuinely engage with young people on the issues they care about.

“While young people are often sidelined from the political debate and accused of being apathetic, this research reveals that they are extremely passionate about being part of important national discussions and having a say on policies that directly impact their lives and the economic future of Australia.”

Australian Research Alliance for Children & Youth CEO Dr Dianne Jackson said the research also challenged the idea that young people voted as a block, showing the issues they considered most important were influenced by factors such as gender, age, political preference, cultural heritage, student or employment status, as well as whether they lived in regional or metropolitan areas, and marginal or safe electorates.

“The majority of many young people don’t see themselves as aligned to a particular political party or personality, rather it is individual issues that they prioritise,” Dr Jackson said.

“It is clear that young people have an opinion on a wide range of issues and are articulate about both what concerns them and what commitments they want from candidates.

“The issues young voters identified as being of primary concern to them also depended greatly on their own personal life experiences. Rather than falling into a homogenous group, the concerns, priorities and demands of young voters are as diverse and distinctive as for the rest of the electorate.”

Background information:
- 3369 young Australians, aged between 12 and 25, were surveyed between 4 April and 2 May, 2016.
- 35 per cent of respondents were aged between 12 and 16, 31 per cent were aged between 17 and 19, and 34 per cent were aged 20 to 25.
- 60 per cent of respondents identified as female, 35 per cent as male, and 4 per cent as an other gender. One per cent did not wish to say their gender.
- 89 per cent were currently undertaking education, either at high school, university, TAFE, or as an apprentice or trainee.
- 49 per cent were currently in employment, either full time, part time or as a casual.
- 44 per cent of respondents live in marginal electorates.
- 29.6 per cent are from non-metropolitan areas.
- 57 per cent said they were undecided or didn’t yet know who they would vote.

What the Agenda For Action: What young Australians want from the 2016 Election report reveals:

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