The Electoral Reform Society are warning of a ‘worrying generation gap’ in the public’s interest in the EU referendum, as new polling by BMG Research released today shows that young people are far less engaged in the referendum debate as older voters.

Just 21% of 18-24 year olds say they are ‘very interested’ in the EU referendum, compared to 47% of those 65 or older, according to polling by BMG [2] commissioned by the ERS. The figure rises to 26% for 25-34 year olds, compared to 32% of 55-64 year olds.

Only 44% of 18-24 year olds say they are certain to vote on June 23rd, compared to 76% of those 65 or older, according to the new polling.

58% of people overall say they will ‘definitely vote’ in the EU referendum, according to BMG Research, while another 15% say they will ‘probably’ vote.

Polling Station 1

However, when asked if they would be more likely to vote if they had more information, 29% of 18-24 year olds said they’d be ‘much more likely’ to vote, and 27% ‘a little more likely’ – 56% overall. That compares with only 39% of the general public saying they’d be more likely to vote if they had more information, leading the ERS to call for the campaigns and media to ‘reach out beyond Westminster’.

The polling for the ERS also showed a major socioeconomic divide, with 36% of professional ABC1 respondents saying they are ‘very interested’ in the referendum compared to just 27% of more working-class C2DE respondents. Overall, 76% of ABC1 respondents said they are interested compared to just 59% of the C2DE demographic.

Commenting on the findings, Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society [3], said:

That more than double the number of older voters say they are very interested in the EU referendum compared to 18-24 year olds highlights a deeply concerning generation gap in this debate. It seems like young people haven’t been engaged in a debate which has so far focused on personalities rather than the real issues which affect them.

“Not only do young people feel less interested, but they are, as we know, far less likely to vote. This poll shows that there is an enormous 32 percentage point difference between the number of 18-24 year olds and voters over the age of 65 in terms of how likely they are to vote.

“We know that this is likely to be a once-in-a-lifetime vote for most people – the last referendum was in 1975 – so it’s all the more important young people who will be most affected by this decision in years to come turn out. This will take effort – just 43% of 18-24 year olds voted in last year’s General Election [4] – but it is vital.

“Overwhelmingly, young people say if they had more information, they would be more likely to vote – 56%, compared to 39% of the public overall, and 26% of those aged 65+.

“On top of that there is a large and worrying socioeconomic divide, with a 17 percentage point chasm between socioeconomic backgrounds, with wealthier voters much more likely to feel engaged in the debate.

“We need to do everything we can to make sure everyone is involved in this huge democratic decision, which will affect all of us. The campaigns and the media clearly need to reach out far wider in targeting a wider range of the public – from young people to economically marginalised groups. “The British public deserve a real debate, and this polling shows the stark need to do everything we can to make sure this referendum isn’t decided by a select few but by the whole country.

“Let’s open up this referendum out of the Westminster bubble and into communities around the UK, so that the public truly have faith in the result.

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