The Rising Wave of Young Voters in New Zealand: An Unseen Power
Understanding the Youth Voting Trend
In recent years, New Zealand has seen a surge in the number of young people participating in elections. Despite this, their turnout continues to fall behind that of older voters. Data from the Electoral Commission showed that as of September 10th, 36% of eligible 18-24-year-olds had yet to enroll to vote. This figure contrasts with the 14% of 25-29 year-olds and a mere 2% of 60-64 year-olds who have not enrolled.
Many young people expressed that they feel alienated by politics, as much of the debate and policy-making seems to be aimed at older voters. This perception acts as a barrier, discouraging them from engaging with the electoral process.
First-time Voters: A Mixed Bag of Emotions
For first-time voters, the experience can be a mix of surreal, nerve-wracking, and overwhelming emotions. The requirement for extensive research and the influence exerted by other voters can be daunting. However, many young voters also consider casting their vote as a civic duty and encourage their peers to take part in the process.
Key Concerns for Young Voters
Young voters are particularly concerned about issues such as climate change and the lack of support for young people transitioning from school to university. Destiny Martin, a student, underscored the potential strength of young voters, saying, “If we realize we do have the power in numbers, we could kind of influence and dictate the policies ourselves.”
Efforts to Increase Youth Engagement
The Electoral Commission has undertaken initiatives to promote participation among young voters. One such effort includes youth advisors like Christchurch-based Tori Holden visiting schools and universities to engage with young voters. Their role is to encourage young voters and ensure their voices are heard during the decision-making process.
The Rising Trend: Youth Turnout in Elections
Despite the challenges, there is a rising trend of youth turnout at general elections. In the 2020 elections, 78% of enrolled 18-24-year-olds voted, marking a significant increase from 69% in 2017 and 63% in 2014. This uptick in youth participation in elections could potentially shift the dynamics of New Zealand’s political landscape.
While the youth vote may be underestimated, it is a growing power that could influence the country’s future. As young people’s engagement in politics continues to rise, their voices and concerns are likely to shape the political discourse more prominently in the coming years.
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