Young voters in Wales need more support to engage in elections
More education and engagement is needed to support young voters to understand and participate in Welsh elections, according to recent research and analysis by the Electoral Commission. Approximately one in five newly enfranchised 16-17 year olds in Wales registered to vote ahead of the local government election on 5 May, with turnout lowest amongst younger age groups.
Feedback gathered for the Commission’s post-poll report on the Welsh local government elections in 2022 found a lack of motivation to engage in elections amongst young people. Reasons given included not knowing enough about candidates, parties and the democratic process in general. The majority of voters in Wales remain confident the elections were well-run and satisfied with the process of voting and registering to vote.
The report also includes feedback from parents in Wales. While 77% of parents think it’s important that children learn the basics about politics, voting and democracy at school, just 22% think the current information their children get on these topics is sufficient. Parents in lower socio-economic households are also less likely to discuss politics at home, increasing the need for school-based learning.
The Commission’s democratic education resources were updated ahead of the election and are designed to help young people understand how to get involved in democracy and support educators to teach political literacy. Work is now underway to develop the resources further, particularly considering upcoming changes to the Welsh curriculum.
Rhydian Thomas, Head of The Electoral Commission Wales, said:
“While most people were satisfied with this year’s elections, we know there remains a lack of understanding and motivation to engage in elections amongst young voters.
“Many young people don’t understand why they haven’t learnt about voting and democracy in more detail at school. We are working closely with the Welsh Government to develop our education resources to ensure they can effectively support the delivery of democratic education in schools through the new curriculum.”
While public confidence in elections remains high, and campaigners reported that they felt able to communicate effectively with voters, the report also reflects the challenges faced by campaigners as well as by those running elections. The evidence shows that the late introduction of new laws, setting out different rules for the election, caused some confusion among candidates and placed additional pressure on administrators. The report also finds that some candidates reported experiencing abuse, threatening behaviour and intimidation at the election.
Rhydian Thomas, added:
“Urgent action is needed to prevent the abuse and intimidation of candidates and campaigners at elections. It is vital that candidates can participate in elections without fear. The Commission will work with the Welsh Government and the wider electoral community to make sure we understand what is driving this issue, and address it as a matter of urgency.”
For more information contact Ella Downing, Senior Communications Adviser on 029 2034 6824, out of office hours 07789 920 414 or email@example.com.
Notes to editors
1. The Electoral Commission is the independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK. We work to promote public confidence in the democratic process and ensure its integrity by:
- enabling the delivery of free and fair elections and referendums, focussing on the needs of electors and addressing the changing environment to ensure every vote remains secure and accessible
- regulating political finance – taking proactive steps to increase transparency, ensure compliance and pursue breaches
- using our expertise to make and advocate for changes to our democracy, aiming to improve fairness, transparency and efficiency.
The Commission was set up in 2000 and reports to the Welsh, UK, and Scottish parliaments.
2. The Electoral Commission has a statutory duty to report on the administration of the following polls held in May 2022: local elections in Wales, England and Scotland and elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly. Today we have published the following:
- Report on the May 2022 elections in Wales
- Report on the May 2022 elections in England
- Report on the May 2022 elections in Scotland
- Report on the May 2022 Northern Ireland Assembly elections
3. The Electoral Commission gathered data in several ways as part of reporting:
- The post poll public opinion research, carried out online between 6 - 22 May 2022 by YouGov on behalf of the Electoral Commission, surveyed 2,801 eligible voters in Wales. 81% were satisfied with the system of registering to vote, 71% said they were confident that the elections were well-run and 95% of those who voted were satisfied with the process of voting.
- A total of 12,338 newly enfranchised 16-17 year olds in Wales applied to register to vote between 1 May 2021 and 14 April 2022, according to data provided by the UK Government Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
- Our Public Opinion Tracker 2022 research surveyed 301 parents in Wales with a child aged 11-18. Of those surveyed, 77% think it’s important that children learn the basics about politics, voting and democracy at school and more think the information their children get around politics, voting and democracy at school is insufficient (31%) than sufficient (22%).
- The post-poll candidate survey ran from 9 May to 6 June and received 162 responses. Candidates were asked: On a scale of 1-5, with 1 being no problem at all and 5 being a serious problem, how much of a problem, if any, did you have with threats, abuse or intimidation in this election? Respondents who rated their experience as a 2 or above (40%) were counted as having experienced threats, abuse, or intimidation.