One of the mysteries of contemporary politics is: why is it so hard to get young people to vote?
Government policy, after all, tends to reflect the interests of the old, for the entirely rational reason that the old actually bother to show up at the polling booth. The result has been tuition fees, soaring house prices and a triple lock on pensions funded by a generation who may never get to retire at all.
So why, when they’re being so comprehensively stuffed, aren’t young people showing up and making their voices heard?
Well, lots of reasons, one suspects. But here’s one I’ve not heard discussed very often: because most of them rent.
Earlier today the Resolution Foundation tweeted this chart from the “Intergenerational Commission” which it launched in July. It shows, well, look:
By contrast, when young, even millennials who own their own home – and who owns their own home at 22? – were less likely than boomer renters to vote.
Nonetheless, housing tenure is pretty clearly a factor here. In every generation, and at every age, homeowners were more likely to vote than renters. Among those millennials pushing 30, homeowners are not that far off twice as likely to vote as renters. As the Resolution Foundation tweet says: “Fewer than 2 in 3 private renters are even on the electoral register.”
There’s an obvious explanation for this: renting is unstable. Renters move more frequently, not always by choice, and so are less likely – less able – to set down roots in a particular constituency.
And if you’re moving every six or none months, between getting your post redirected and the wifi reconnected, registering with the Electoral Commission yet again is one of those jobs that might just slip off your to do list.
So – there are fewer millennials. They’re less likely to vote anyway. And this tendency is massively amplified by the fact that a sizeable majority of them rent. All the pressure on politicians is to keep house prices high, and to serve the interests of landlords rather than their tenants, and so the cycle continues.
It’s really very depressing.
The Intergenerational Commission, incidentally, is an 18 months investigation into fairness between generations, chaired by former universities minister David Willetts. I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess this isn’t the last time the subject of housing will come up in its work.
Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @jonnelledge.