New voters like politics, not politicians

By Alex Stevenson

First-time voters are interested in politics but less than one in five have a positive view of political parties, according to new research.

A poll of young people by Nottingham Trent University academics found two-thirds viewed past and present governments as dishonest and untrustworthy.

Eighty-one per cent had a negative view of political parties and MPs, but this did not reflect a broader disengagement with politics. Sixty-three per cent said they were interested in political matters and would consider voting in future general elections.

"Young people's disengagement with formal politics is still a major problem, despite attempts by recent governments to address the issue and despite evidence that young people are interested in politics and democracy," lead researcher Matt Henn said.

"Young people clearly consider the political system as closed, and their experience in their first general election has left them feeling disheartened and frustrated.

"We have uncovered a considerable aversion to formal, professional politics which is just as deep as it was a decade ago."

The research reflected similar levels of frustration recorded after the 2001 general election.

"Finding ways of encouraging young people to engage with politics isn't just about making it easier to vote, it's about changing political culture too," Professor Henn added.

"We need a concerted effort by parties and politicians, not just in the run-up to an election, but beyond."

The study suggested new methods could be used to connect with young people, including 'Question Time'-style forums and better use of the internet and social networking tools.

Young people's disinterest in MPs reflects a broader trend. Data from the Committee for Standards in Public Life found the wider public's confidence in MPs had reached a new low of just 26% – a 20% drop in confidence since 2008.