Political engagement: why it is an issue and how to resolve it?

The issue of getting younger people more involved in politics is not a new concern. Many people have explored this before, particularly in the media but the data collected from recent elections around the world show that it is still an issue to be concern about. In my opinion there are many factors contributing to this issue and only a few suggestions explored to try and resolve it.

First I will go through what I think are the two main contributing factors to the lack of youth engagement in politics, particularly in elections. The issue that stands out to me the most is the fact that younger people are not given a chance to find out about politics until later in life. For me, I was only really introduced to politics when I started in University in Dublin in 2010. Although I was aware of certain areas of politics growing up, it was never on my agenda. I would never switch on Sky News to get an update on an election or political crisis like I do now.

Now, I find myself reading long political features with the authors often discuss things that have happened in the world of politics in the 2000's and the majority of time, I do not remember them. For a person who is so interested in politics, this is an issue that I have never really understood. Why is it that during my teenage years, I was so disengaged with the politics in my country and around the world?

I do feel that part of the blame for this lies with the education system for having more of a focus on the importance of learning poems off by heart rather than teaching students about politics for example; the issues that face political parties coming up to an election such as lack of housing, the health system or the lack of funding for the police or Gardaí. It could be an idea to then get students to vote in a mock election based on the information they have learned. If teenagers were more engaged with these type of issues they would be excited to vote come their 18th birthday and not waiting until their mid-twenties to get a voting card. This issue however isn't just attached to Irish schools. I know plenty of highly regarded education systems which seem to omit politics from its syllabus and it baffles me as to why that is?

Another key issue contributing to the lack of youth engagement in politics is the complication that is attached to political reporting. There can be so much complication attached to a political news story that a lot of the time, people do not understand what is going on. Myself included. There is often political stories that have gained so much public interest that the media complicates the story just for media gain. What I mean by this is, for example; a journalist may cover a political story over and over again by focusing on a different angle every time they report on it which may make the article confusing for the people who just want to understand the general points of what is going on rather than what a politician said 10 years ago! I think that when a journalist does this, it is just good investigative journalism but this usually over complicates the issue and therefore people give up reading the story halfway through or even before! This goes for people of all ages and not just the younger generation.

So, how do we resolve it?  How do we get younger people more involved in politics?  The answer may not be simple but there has to be steps to make the situation better than what it is now.

Education plays a key role in developing young people's interests. I am not just referring to academic interests but school is where many people learn how to play instruments or play sports. I think that if politics was introduced to children at a young age and was made really simple, children would grow up with an awareness of the political parties and elections happening in their country. I am not saying that every child will be interested or that any of them will even like politics but if children grow up to be aware of political issues and how they shape the world around them, I highly doubt that we would be experiencing low figures on voting numbers for the 18-25 year olds that we have now when it comes to voting in general or referendum elections.

As I explained earlier, I think that there is a need to have a simplify political news source for younger people. If someone was to report on political news stories with the bigger picture in mind and explain the impact of the issue on the general public, more and more of the youth generation would be able to understand the political stories that are being reported on, on a daily basis. The media tends to get very caught up in the drama of politics and less about the core details.

This blog will provide a simplified approach to politics in the future for the people who just want to know the facts so if you are interested in this don't forget to sign up!


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