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New guide a helping hand for young voters

A University of Exeter student has created an online resource to educate young people in the basics of British politics in the run-up to the General Election. Liz Atkins, a first year undergraduate in Politics and International Relations is aiming to improve student engagement with British politics by providing essential information that will give a solid introduction to the framework of the electoral process.

To achieve this Atkins has created an online pamphlet explaining what constitutes a Government; a Parliament; the different types of elections and key information concerning the upcoming election. The Basics of British Politics- Your Guide to the General Election’ online pamphlet aims to tackle the rise of voter apathy amongst 18 to 24 year olds which has been consistently below other age groups in relation to casting their ballot since the 1970s

The root cause of this apathy needs to be addressed and Atkins believes that the best way to tackle this lies in education. She said:“I think the main issue is that because we’re not compulsorily taught about politics in school and unless you have parents who are interested in politics or you actively pursue an interest in politics, you can get to age 19 and 20, be at a Russell Group university and still not know what an MP is or what your vote actually counts towards.”

Atkins liaised with students to find out how she could best convey her message and decided to utilise a combination of printed and online resources as a platform that was accessible for students. She also utilised social media to advertise ‘The Basics of British Politics- Your Guide to the General Election’ online pamphlet and linked to the project from her blog Why Every Woman Should…’ The blog has been viewed by people in 20 different countries. This shows how an online presence can provide a useful platform to disseminate information to large groups of people.

Fifty hard copies of the pamphlet were also printed and distributed by Politics Society at the recent General Election Expo (attended by four prospective MP candidates) to help inform students of the project, with more to be distributed over the coming months.

Claire Dunlop, Associate Professor of Politics at the University of Exeter said:“It’s really impressive and rewarding to see the passion with which Liz Atkins actively goes about getting fellow students and young people to better understand and engage with politics. This encouragement to use their democratic right to vote and explaining the implications of this action is extremely important and inspiring to see in action. With campaigning for the General Election now beginning in earnest Liz’s project shows how students can engage with current events on their own initiative and aim to make real, impacting change within their community. It is too soon to tell if this project can encourage students to vote on Thursday 7 May however evidence such as visits to the online pamphlet may help with ascertaining if this project has encouraged students to use their vote.”

The pamphlet was formatted and designed by Niobe Shaw (Student Engagement and Programme Support for the College) who assisted with coordinating the project. The project was run in association with the Students as Change Agents initiative which aids and encourages students to create real change in the world around them.

Date: 28 April 2015

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