Brexit: Can U.K. Remain Camp Get the Youth Votin'?

Young People
Young people dancin', before hopefully registerin' to vote. Public Domain

Are you a “young person”? If you are, you probably spent yesterday “logging on” to your “smartphone handset” to “surf the social media superhighway,” and consequently will have seen the flack Britain’s pro-EU campaigners took for their latest advert targeting the youth vote.

Dubbed “#Votin’,” the campaign aims to convince young voters that “life’s better in the EU,” whether in terms of “earnin’,” “goin’,” or simply “livin’.” Needless to say, some on Twitter spent time extracting the Michael:

But this is just one chapter in a wider story. According to YouGov research published this week, voters aged 18 to 29 are the third most likely category to support continued membership of the EU, but the second least likely to actually turn up to vote. Getting them to do so has become an important focus for those who want Britain to stay in, with work including campaigns in universities around the country and a previous video asking younger people to persuade their older relatives not to vote to leave.

Some outside the Tory party who are pushing for continued EU membership can’t help pointing out an irony: changes to voter registration rushed through by the Conservatives last year have led to many young people slipping off the electoral register. An estimate reported by The Guardian in January found that 1.8 percent of voters were thought to have dropped off and that the register had shrunk more dramatically in areas with a high population of students. The figures are likely to be a little less stark now, as some presumably signed up to vote in May’s local and devolved elections. But there could still be plenty of voters who need to sign up.

One source who has discussed voter registration with the Remain campaign tells Newsweek that staff in the Prime Minister’s office are “bricking it,” (shouldn’t that be “brickin’”?), realising they need to veer from the “silver vote” that won them the election to the “youth vote.” A senior source in Britain Stronger In Europe, the official Remain campaign separate from the government, is a little more sanguine. “What’s done is done,” they say, but admit that “everyone is focused on this.”

Even without this added challenge, getting young people to turn up to any vote is difficult. The British Election Study has found that even among registered voters, the young have been the least likely to cast a ballot since the 1970s. A 2013 ICM poll found that younger people were significantly more bored with politics than older citizens.

So can Remain get down with the kids? It’s tricky to say before June 7—the deadline for registering to vote in the referendum. But there seems to be to be one heartening sign for Britain’s Europhiles. According to marketing industry magazine The Drum, Venturethree, the agency that was workin’ on the new ad, wanted people to rubbish it to get traction.

“We are sure that when this ad goes out people will take the piss out of it,” agency copywriter TJ Rees told the industry magazine, “it had to be that way, rather than this race to vanilla that seems to be the way that a lot of these communications are going.”

Posting something ironically on social media and rolling your eyes when people don’t get it? Maybe Remain does understand millennials after all.

Are you a feckless millennial who hasn’t bothered to stop playin’ your videogames and drinkin’ your new fangled fizzy pop long enough to register? You can do it here.