The outcome of the UK’s referendum on EU membership is too close to call. So which voters could help create a clear difference between the in or out.?
Young people between 18 and 24 represent 12 percent of the voting bloc and they could hold the key.
A debate – at London’s iconic Shard building – was a magnet for the latest generation of voters from 18 years of age and upwards, who want to have their say. But they are in a minority.
Euronews’ correspondent, Damon Embling reported from London: “According to polls, younger people tend to be more pro-European than older generations. But at last year’s general election, here in the UK, only 43 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds turned out to cast their ballot. And that’s why campaigners, this time around, are piling in resources to boost their numbers.”
The debate is part of that drive to shrug off the apathy among this age group and entice more young voters to the ballot box on June 23. All have different reasons for taking part.
“I’ve come here because I’m undecided and I’ve got a brother who’s very, very sure that we want to leave. I’ve got a dad who’s very, very liberal, very green, wants to stay. So I’ve come here to listen to some more balanced views,” explained 24-year-old Simon Truscott.
“A lot of people underestimate how important it is for young people. Obviously it affects education and what not. And I think it’s quite unfair that we undermine like the other effects, apart from immigration, that staying within or outside the EU, is,” said Linessa Mercurius.
Twenty-two-year old Ronan Hanna looked to the future to explain his thinking.
“I’m going to vote ‘in.’ I think it’s really important for everyone to have a say in the vote. I’m voting ‘in’ because I don’t feel that we will have a better future outside of the EU.”
But not all n the 18-24 age group are students. What of those who are working? Sam Sharp is employed in a factory in Kent. He can’t see any benefits for remaining in the European Union. He wants out.
“I’m voting leave, personally because I haven’t heard any good reasons from David Cameron why I should stay myself. He seems to just make things up as he goes along and he wants to scare people into staying in,” he said.
Dr. Darren Sharpe is a researcher who has been gathering the opinions of young people in the UK about the European Union and what it means to be a member of the bloc.
Most of those he contacted said they thought of themselves as European citizens. But a whopping 93 percent said they knew little or nothing about the European Union.
“This referendum is about emotions and identity as it as much about rational choice for which party or which body you’re voting for. So on a positive note, they felt European, they felt interconnected and integrated. But in terms of the bureaucracy, what governs us and impacts upon us, they know very little about. And they’re crying out for information,” he explained.
Charity ‘Bite the Ballot’ an independent agency wants to empower young people to take an active part in society. It has been taking to social media and holding workshops in communities – to try and drive up the number of young people registered to vote in the referendum.
Abiodun Olatokun is the Campaigns Manager for the charity.
“What’s been really interesting to see is how young people have rejected the establishment’s conversation about the European Union referendum. And instead want to talk about how it will affect them and their community which I think, by the end of a ‘Turn Up’ voter registration session, has been the big response we’ve seen across the board,” he said.
With so much at stake and the opinion polls so close campaigners are determined to try and get young people to the polling stations.
The two sides have presented their arguments and have got some young people talking but whether that will translate into a record number of votes next week is less certain.