UK Millennials believe Britain's best days have been and gone

As the UK’s political parties’ battle for the hearts and minds of voters ahead of the May 2015 election, a new opinion poll for Telefónica lifts the lid on the views of an often ignored voter demographic – young people.

The UK findings from Telefónica’s global survey of Millennials* suggests that Westminster is still failing to inspire young people. According to the survey, an overwhelming majority (71%) of the Millennial generation don’t believe voting makes a difference.

While the survey indicates that young voters may not be planning to rush to the polling booths next May, it provides a valuable insight into the issues dominating the agendas of these eligible voters. When asked about their views on the most important issues affecting the country, top of Millennials’ list of concerns was: unemployment (23%); the economy (19%) and social equality (10%).

And, when quizzed further on the areas Millennials want government to focus future spending, forty per cent cited education (41%), the NHS (41%) and safe and affordable housing (39%) as top priorities.

With the economy set to dominate the agenda in the run-up to the election, it’s clear that young people, like other generations, are concerned about the nation’s economic health. According to the survey, the majority of young people still believe that the UK’s best days have been and gone (56%). When asked what they believe is hindering the UK’s economic growth, lack of social mobility (21%) and the widening gap between rich and poor (25%) were cited by Millennials as key barriers.

It’s apparent from the polling that while young people are passionate about the issues dominating the current political agenda, there is an opportunity for the political parties to better galvanise young and first-time voters. Of the Millennials Telefónica spoke to, 82% agreed that mobile technology has transformed their access to current affairs and 86% have access to a smartphone. A further 73% also agreed that it has transformed their opportunity for personal expression.

Ronan Dunne, Telefónica UK CEO says: “The fact that so few Millennials believe that voting can make a difference sends a clear signal: we must find better ways to engage younger voters. The digital revolution has transformed people’s lives – the Millennial generation are using technology that didn’t exist two years ago, let alone at the last election. Businesses and political parties can and should do more to use technology to connect with young people on their terms.

“The research has shown that young people are rightly concerned about future job prospects and economic growth. As a technology business, we know the digital economy has huge potential and that, as the generation to have grown up with the internet, young people possess the native digital talent that will fuel our future economy.

“The digital economy represents a real opportunity for political parties: drive growth; unleash the talent of this digitally literate Millennial generation and galvanise the youth vote in the process.”

While a large majority of young people (71%) don’t believe they can make a difference through voting, the survey indicates that Millennials are in fact using a variety of means to initiate change. Of the young people Telefonica spoke to, 40% would give time to others in their local community, almost a third (28%) would use social media to document or criticise what’s going on around them and 17% believe that participating in a protest or a boycott is a key way to make a difference.

Digital Media Manager for Telefónica and founder of O2-backed political engagement project Hands up Who’s Bored, Danny Bartlett, says: “Young people are often criticised for their apparent political apathy but the survey shows that in fact, thousands are actively engaged in politics every single day. The rapid rise of the internet has created a platform for young people to make a difference outside the confines of the election booth. But it’s still important that politicians take the time to talk to young people about their future policies and engage them on why voting matters. Digital gives politicians a real opportunity to reach young people through the technology they’re using every single day.”

Telefónica commissions the Global Millennial survey each year with the ambition to better understand the next generation and empower them to reap the benefits of technology. Full findings from this year’s survey will be discussed at length at the One Young World summit. Taking place from 15-18 October in Dublin, the summit will see young people from around the globe come together to debate world issues alongside speakers including Sir Bob Geldof, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and former presidents of Latin America. Telefónica has been a partner of One Young World since 2011.