Saturday’s Federal election garnered minimal interest among young adults, as statistics reveal Australians aged 18-29 share little enthusiasm for Australian politics.
A recent Australian Election Study asked respondents if they would vote had it not been compulsory, and only 78% of young Australians (18-29) said they would.
Political historian Dr Geoffrey Robinson believes this is something that can be addressed by politicians paying more attention to how young people perceive them and responding accordingly.
“Disengagement from formal politics is often matched with other forms of activism, such as online activism, protests, people wanting to live their lives in different ways in terms of sustainability and so on,” Robinson said.
“There’s probably a reason why lots of young people feel disengaged from formal politics.
“People engaged in formal politics should be thinking about how to improve their image and appeal to young people.”
In 2018, the Social Research Institute surveyed 1,021 Australians from a wide range of demographic backgrounds about their attitude towards democracy.
Results showed fewer than 41% of Australian citizens are satisfied with the way democracy works in Australia, down from 86% in 2007.
Robinson suggests the major decline in satisfaction was due to a range of factors.
“I think it reflects a combination of political instability, stagnation in living standards, serious but unresolved problems such as climate action and so on, which [is] leading to frustration about the political process.”
Robinson believes compulsory education in politics for high school students could be useful, but not in a “formalistic, structure-of-government way”.
High school educator Michael Casey disagrees, believing the current schooling system doesn’t allow all students to make sense of formal politics.
“The majority of students who do not choose Legal Studies as a subject to study during their schooling are never privy to understanding how an election works and why it is required,” Casey said.
“Given the time restrictions around the VCE course, I would suggest a compulsory Legal Studies Year 10 subject for students to learn how all these things work.”
Casey insists political interest will continue to trend downwards among young people if they don’t receive the necessary education.
“The snippets [of formal politics] that teenagers see are simply people who they do not know arguing back and forth – how can we realistically ask students to take any interest in that?”
Robinson suggests the best course of action for anyone who wants to take an interest in politics is to jump in and get involved.
“Formal political participation remains important to potentially making a difference, but I think people would actually benefit from involvement in forms of community activism and grassroots campaigning.”
The Liberal/National Party Coalition won the 2019 Australian Federal Election on May 18 and Scott Morrison will continue his reign as Australia’s 30th Prime Minister.