‘More left-wing than previous generations’: Polls reconstruct youth vote ahead of federal election

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Climate change remains the biggest issue for many young voters, and for first-time voter Frewoini Baume, that rings true.

The beekeeper from Lismore, 21, has spent the past two months cleaning up properties damaged by the devastating floods in March and said she was disappointed with the response to climate change as well as the post-disaster visit from the Prime Minister Scott Morrison in the region. .

“I don’t feel represented by a prime minister sneaking into my traumatized community,” Ms Baume said.

“And I really don’t feel represented by a prime minister who believes in miracles, but who can hold a little coal in his hand and tell me not to be afraid and to go back to school when I strike for the climate action.

“[The government] are expected to sign their next approval for a coal mine in front of my community which has just experienced record flooding. »

Ms Baume has spent the past few months helping clean up efforts in Lismore after devastating floods.(Provided: Frewoini Balm)

Like Ms. Baume, multiple surveys of young people, including the ABC’s Vote Compass, show that the issue they care about most is climate change.

The Australian Election Study, conducted after every federal election since the late 1980s, also found “a growing generational divide in the voting behavior of younger and older Australians”.

In the last election, the survey, conducted among a representative sample of voters, found that the younger generation was the most left-wing in the history of the survey.

Report co-author Sarah Cameron said the trend has emerged over the past two election cycles.

“We have seen an erosion of support for both main parties over time… in favor of the Greens,” Dr Cameron said.

“What we’ve started to see now is that this particular generation of young people are voting differently than previous generations of young people.”

In Lismore, Ms Baume said her generation’s political views were influenced by the world they grew up in.

“Our generation was kind of brought up in this world where it’s like everything is breaking records, unprecedented,” she said.

“So all of these words have kind of become a norm and it shouldn’t be a norm.”

COVID has taken ‘the best years of my life’

Further south, at Castle Hill in Sydney, Rayana Ajam also felt the “best years” of her adult life had been cut short by the throes of the pandemic.

Ms Ajam said she felt young people who had dealt with home learning, interrupted life experiences and lockdowns at critical times in their education were not prioritized.

“The best years of my life have honestly been wasted being stuck between the four walls of my bedroom watching pre-recorded lectures,” Ms Ajam said.

She said she believed the coalition government and Labor had failed to address the issues facing young people.

“In this next election, I think we all pick the best of the two worst,” she said.

A young woman stands in front of a window with aerial views, smiling at the camera.  She has dark skin and black hair.
Rayana Ajam thinks COVID-19 has taken the “best years” of her life.(Provided: Rayana Ajam)

Longitudinal analysis from the Pew Research Center shows that events as people grow up affect how they view the world, and in many cases how they vote, for the rest of their lives.

Dr Cameron said given the unprecedented nature of recent events, it was difficult to predict how young people’s votes might be affected.

“This period of youth is often a time when young people engage politically, and yet they haven’t had the same kind of experiences in this phase of life as a result of the pandemic,” Dr Cameron said. .

“A lot of things that would normally happen face-to-face are moving online, which isn’t necessarily equivalent.

“Young people have probably spent more time in the family home in recent years, but they have also probably spent a lot more time online, which could also have potentially different impact and impacts on parental influence. .”

Record increase in youth enrollment

Melbourne resident Luis Benipayo, 22, said if the last thing on his mind was the federal election, it was the first time he was in it.

“This is my first time registering to vote,” Benipayo told the ABC.

He is part of a record wave of newly registered voters for the upcoming federal election.

Luis Benipayo
Luis Benipayo is one of 80,000 newly registered young voters.(Provided by: Luis Benipayo)

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) said around 97% of the eligible population was now registered, with 80,000 18-24 year olds registering during the April deadline week.

Dr Cameron said the few young people who had not registered to vote were not necessarily disengaged from politics.

“There’s a long-standing debate about whether young people are being disengaged from politics or just engaging differently,” she said.

“In countries where voting is voluntary, young people are much less likely to vote than older people, but they can be involved in other ways, including various forms of online activism, and we can discuss the whether online activism is somehow equivalent to offline political participation.

“[They’re also involved in] protest participation, which is often a form of political engagement favored by young people.”

A group of men play basketball, contesting the ball in the air.
According to the AEC, 18-34 year olds represent only 26% of registered voters.(Provided by: Luis Benipayo )

Young people make up just 26% of Australia’s electorate

Mr Benipayo said he agreed with the feeling that his generation felt ignored by the main parties.

“All they talked about was how to help older people, but… they didn’t really talk about the younger community,” Mr Benipayo said.

According to the AEC, 18-34 year olds represent 26% of the registered electorate, compared to 55 and over, who represent around 40%.

The cohort of 35-54 year olds completes the electoral population, constituting 34% of voters.

Back in Rivers North, Frewoini Baume said that while politicians were doing more to address the issues young people are concerned about, the way they conduct themselves was also a factor in his vote.

She cited as an example the recent scandals concerning the treatment of women and minorities in the federal parliament.

“Politicians are meant to be our leaders, our role models and our examples, and the behaviors they adopt are not necessarily what I aspire to.”

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