WHAT IF – 16 and 17 years could vote on 7th May 2015?

  • Conservatives more popular than UKIP and the Green Party with those too young to vote at 16 and 17, yet  this is the one remaining major party that continues to oppose their right to vote.
  • Britain’s 16 and 17 year olds don’t have the right to vote at this General Election but if they did a YouGov poll of potential young voters reveals a clear difference between the non-voting 16-17 group and the 18-24 year old electorate.
  • Labour still lead overall (37%), but Conservatives (32%) are back in second place, taking votes from Greens (13%) and UKIP (6%) with 16 and 17 year olds, compared with 18-24 who put Lab (36%) Green (20%) Cons (19%) and UKIP (14%)

The British Youth Council, the national youth-led charity who campaigns for votes at 16, commissioned YouGov to ask about voting intentions of those aged 16-24. Whilst this put Labour ahead with both groups, the younger group prefer the Conservatives to both the Green Party and UKIP in contrast to the 18-24 year olds.

They’d choose Tories (32%) ahead of the Greens (13%) and  UKIP (6%) , compared with 19% of 18-24 year olds, a massive 13 points difference. Both age groups would still favour Labour overall 36-37%.

  Labour Conservatives Green UKIP Liberal Democrats SNP/ PC
16-17 37 32 13 6 4 7
18-24 36 19 20 14 5 5


Votes at 16 is one of five priority campaigns in the British Youth Council’s newly published Election Manifesto, Our Parliament Our Vision 2015-2020, which challenges the next Government to take action under the direction of a new dedicated Youth Minister, whose role would be to not only coordinate a Ministerial Youth Cabinet, but to continue to listen and engage young peoples’ voices between elections. The other priorities are: the living wage for all; equal, accessible and quality mental health services for young people; restore funding to Youth Services; and introduce mandatory First Aid in schools.

The British Youth Council will be releasing more polling data over the next few weeks to indicate the number registered to vote and whether they intend to turnout to vote – in response to a UK wide campaign to register and vote being led by the League of Young Voters coalition www.leagueofyoungvoters.org.uk

Do you think that 16 and 17 have the maturity and experience to make informed and wise electoral choices?  What does this YouGov poll preference by them (compared with 18-24) for the Conservative party over Greens and UKIP say about their judgement?  Is there any relationship between this and the coalition Governments investment in National Citizen Service for 16 year olds, which includes citizenships education?

We at the British Youth Council know that young people are far more engaged and self-taught with single issue politics and campaigns than they are given credit for, and the growing numbers engaging in peer elections and youth in democracy initiatives, like the UK Youth Parliament, are the silent un-reported proof of that interest. (876,000 took part in their Make Your Mark poll in 2014).

When 16 and 17 year olds were trusted enough to take part in the Scottish independence referendum, they were given a special curriculum in schools to prepare for it, and engaged in the media debate as responsible young adults. Consequently, in Scotland the majority of adults and young people are now united in welcoming that franchise to continue. Will those who continue to question their capacity to be ‘voters’ think again, and will those who have already committed to lowering the vote – pause to consider that it’s not enough to lower the vote – but to educate for it as well.

Talk to us not about us.

For more information or to speak to our media spokespeople please contact the press office.