The general election is rapidly approaching and yet again the news is full of depressing vox pops with people who seem to think they’re somehow gaming the system by not voting, people who think they’re being big and clever by not exercising their democratic rights. I’m here to tell you you’re not big and you’re not clever if you don’t vote.
A quick Google throws up some interesting market research by Survation on behalf of Lodestone Communications. The biggest reasons for voter apathy are:
- don’t believe vote will make any difference;
- parties are all the same;
- not interested in politics;
- not enough information to make an opinion;
- my views aren’t represented by any party.
These are a completely unsurprising set of reasons and each of them is really flawed if you only spend a couple of minutes thinking about it:
don’t believe vote will make any difference
Really? I can’t quite bring myself to answer this one earnestly because I’m afraid it’ll come across as patronising. Instead please watch this biting piece of political satire:
parties are all the same
It’s no secret that Labour have been moving more and more to the centre over the past few years but branding them all the same is more than a little facile. Yes, politicians as a breed are generally quite similar and fit into several different categories- the Eton boys who’s want to run the world for each other, the career politicians who aren’t particularly interested in anything other than their career in politics and the backbenchers who, if they’re Tory have a weird obsession with Europe, or if they’re Labour probably spend half the day publicly eating bacon sandwiches to show it can be done but generally care about their local constituents and work hard.
There are some pretty fundamental differences between parties at a basic level though. As I wrote in my God vs Politics post, if international charities and the Church of England are taking the unprecedented step of criticising social welfare policy, then there is definitely something different between the two main parties. The problem really lies in the vicious circle of news reporting and press releases written for news reporting. We now live in a society where if it can’t be said in a catchy soundbite, it’s not said or reported, which means plenty of political difference just isn’t reported.
not interested in politics
I’ve never understood this one. Not interested in politics? Tax levels and VAT rates affect everyone on a daily basis. Who decides them? What’s taught to our kids in schools, the schools admission process and cost of further education, all decided on by politicians. Grumbling about your bins not being collected every week? At some fundamental level that’s down to politics too.
not enough information to make an opinion
Find it then. Stop being so lazy and expecting everything on a plate for you. There are plenty of free resources to read at your leisure online that can educate you. Get off your apathetic backside.
my views aren’t represented by any party
That’s probably because the country isn’t run for the sole benefit of you. Sorry if that sounds harsh but nobody can be all things to all men. What you have to do is act like a grown up and weigh up the pros and cons of each party and it’s policies, and then take a big breath and consider whether any of their election pledges will be ditched if they get in to power (Lib Dems, we’re looking at you here). Once you’ve done that, you should vote for either the party you most agree with or against the party you disagree with the most. Just vote. Please.
Voters are important. Incredibly important. How important? Well for example the government has just spent £300m to make the lives of pensioners better by issuing Pensioner Bonds- a way for the well off elderly to get a good return on their savings that the market can’t/won’t provide. (£300m is the estimated cost to the government of running the scheme). Any demographic analysis of Tory voters shows that their largest group of supporters by some distance are the over 65’s. Voters are so important the government have just spent £300m to remind their core voters that they still need their support. Make no bones about it, Pensioner Bonds are completely against the free market ideology of the Tory party.
Is it a coincidence that the age group that votes the most gets the most?