Garnering the votes of a younger generation has always proven to be politically challenging. This reflection is even more applicable in modern times. Those in their 20s and 30s now tend to be much more informed and therefore, are able to draw astute conclusions about candidates. The key issue is politicians (and even entire political parties) failing to realise this conclusion will undeniably suffer in the poles.
Candidates winning over the younger generation can be seen in the meteoric rise of Jeremy Corbyn in relation to this demographic. What policies did he embrace and how have they impacted his perception within the eyes of voters?
The Power of the “Little Man”
One of the reasons why the younger generation feels jaded is that they perceive that they have little influence over political outcomes. Jeremy Corbyn attempted to dispel this viewpoint by identifying himself with the “little man” and the average voter. Thus, he was able to bridge the gap between politics and everyday existence. This helped to cement his following, as they felt that they were part of a greater cause; a perspective not often observed within the tattered arena of national politics. Some might even be able to equate this approach to that which was espoused by the Obama administration during his second electoral campaign.
Galvanising the Vote Through Mainstream Events
Traditional electoral campaigns may not have as much of an impact upon younger voters as certain parties may assume. It seems that Jeremy Corbyn and his staff appreciated this observation. One of the ways in which he “wooed” these voters was to use urban performance personalities. An example can be seen in the campaign known as Grime4Corbyn. This organisation employed legal warehouse parties to encourage young participants to register to vote for Labour (1). The strategy makes perfect sense, for niche icons are likely to have a massive influence over their loyal followers, something we saw happen when Obama announced he was running.
Leveraging the Power of Social Media
The power of social media cannot be overstated and this is arguably the best secret weapon to connect and engage with a younger audience. Examples of such an influence can be seen in the digital campaign of Donald Trump as well as the Vote Leave online movement. Although social media may not be a completely accurate predictor of electoral outcomes, there is no doubt that there are clear correlations between the number of followers and hits to the popularity of a candidate.
This observation was not lost on Jeremy Corbyn. He (and the Labour party in general) adopted much more of an active role when compared to their Conservative counterparts. Labour publicised approximately 30 posts a day while the Conservative party was associated with roughly ten fewer. Indeed, there were well over 1.3 million Labour followers on Facebook alone (2). This resulted in more than 100,000 engagements a week; much more than between 30,000 and 40,000 Conservative exchanges.
On the day of the election, Mr. Corbyn’s team heavily promoted paid media ads on social broadcasting platform Twitter, encouraging an audience engaging actively on the topic of the election to take notice.
Youth and Humour
Both Corbyn and the Labour party have used personality and humour alongside and within their social media profiles. This obviously strikes a tone with younger audiences and it is also a policy which Conservatives have avoided. Such an approach could very well entice voters who may have otherwise been “on the fence” or those who might not actively post on social media but who will nonetheless cast their ballot.
The Right Issues at the Right Time
Above all, Corbyn and Labour focused their efforts upon issues that are particularly relevant to the younger generation. A pre-election survey reported that the three most pertinent topics include surrounding the election included:
- NHS and social services.
- Jobs and the economy.
- The Brexit.
In fact, YouGov said that 21% of all young voters cited healthcare as their most important concern. Considering that politics under the Conservative party saw many benefits cut during their seven years in power, it only makes sense that we have witnessed a backlash from this demographic. The policies of Labour and the promise to roll back many previous reforms even caused some voters to switch parties entirely.
The Cult of Personality?
It should now be clear to see why the techniques espoused by Labour during the election served to attract the younger generation. Does this enable Jeremy Corbyn to represent a cult of personality? Although the point can be debated, many feel that such an attraction arose from his honesty and clarity when engaging with the younger audience. Many then simply attached exiting Labour policies to his campaign. The most important takeaway point is that in the future, it is likely that other parties will learn lessons from the gains that Labour made immediately before the election.