For and against: Lowering voting age

Daisy BlacklockYouGovLabs writer
February 15, 2012, 4:03 PM GMT+0

Should the voting age in this country be lowered to 16 or kept at 18? Or do you only have enough experience to vote aged 21, or older? Join the debate here

With the next General Election some three years away, we in PoliticsLab asked how members of the public feel about the current minimum voting age: 18. Do they think 18 is the right age to be afforded the right the vote in elections? Or did you think it the age needs to go higher or lower?

Discussions over the voting age are inevitably tied up with that small matter of the 'age of majority’, or the age at which individuals are recognised as adults in law.

Where some feel that the voting age should be lowered to 16 – the same age at which you can legally marry, have sex, and enter the armed forces in most of the UK, others think that 18 is still too young an age at which individuals can start voting in elections. Instead, some argue that people should be given the vote in their twenties, once they've gained some life experience, are paying taxes, and can think independently.

What’s your opinion of the minimum voting age? At what age do you think you were best-placed to vote in elections? And what do you think about the 'age of majority'?

Add to the discussion using the Disqus comments section below

Back in 2004, the Electoral Commission – the independent body in charge of running and monitoring local and general elections – ran an in-depth study into whether the voting age in Britain should be lowered to 16 or kept at 18.

Their results showed that the majority of those surveyed wanted the voting age to stay at 18. That most countries also set the voting age at 18, and that arriving at a single definition of ‘maturity’ is difficult, bolstered the argument for retaining 18 as the age of electoral majority.

In 2004, the EC said it would be reviewing voting ages again in five to seven years ‒ so the time to renew the debate will surely soon be ripe…

Here's what PoliticsLab participants had to say...

1. Argument 1 – The voting age should be lowered to 16

“At 16 years of age you are able to marry, pay taxes, and leave home. You can legally have sex, which implies it is the age at which the Government deems you old enough to become a parent. If you are deemed old enough to become a parent, get married and contribute to the treasury, then you should be deemed old enough to decide who makes the policies that so greatly affect your life” Anon

“16 year olds are just as wise and politically-aware as 18 year olds” Anon

A 16 year old can pay tax or be sent to fight for their country, but they are currently refused the right to vote for the politicians who can decide how to spend their taxes, or send them off to war” Andrew, Merseyside

“Funnily enough I campaigned for the voting age to be lowered years ago. I think that it gives youngsters more of an investment in what's happening. However, I also think voting should be compulsory as it is in other countries, for example Australia” Nicy W, Dartford

“Apathy is the biggest problem facing the UK political system. Engaging people in decision-making at a younger age would help improve this” Anon

“I believe that the 16 year-olds that would vote would be a self-selecting, politically interested minority who would add real value to the political discourse” Dan F, Edinburgh

“Not particularly passionate about it but I can understand that some 16 and 17 year-olds really want to and are just as informed as older adults (in some cases more so), so let them vote. Most people who vote haven't got a clue about politics anywayJon C, Coventry

2. Argument 2 – The voting age should be raised

“18 year olds may think that they know everything but they really do not. Unfortunately one does not realise this when one is 18. One needs to have some experience of the world and 21 should be the minimum age – perhaps 25 would be better” Mike M, Gloucestershire

“Because at 18, one is too easily swayed by immoral politicians” R Smith, Scotland

“Even with information on politics at school/college – this seems to be tainted by the teacher/lecturer's bias and therefore cannot be deemed independent. It is evident, based on the school/college location, the 'leaning' toward a particular party. By 21, everyone should be able to use their own experience to decide” Anon

“Extending the period where the person is unable to vote may increase their desire to eventually vote when they hit 21. Maturity is obviously an issue here, too. Though 18 year-olds are getting there, that extra three years (including the experience gained from work, training or university) would be beneficial in making a well-informed decision. Democracy lives or dies on the ability of the electorate to make a well-informed decision, after all” Pete, Bristol

“Idealism turns to reality as you learn and observe” Dave, Wessex

“The younger a person is, the less their ability to make informed judgements, and the matter of government should not be skewed by this factor. The mass student hysteria regarding cuts demonstrated fairly well an inability to see beyond narrow personal concernsBenjamin L, Holywell

“18 it is too young for them to have much of a judgement on why there is a vote. To them it is more of an 'in the moment thing'. Which party will lower the age of getting a drink, or keep the clubs open, and which won't? Rather than which party will make life easier for the elderly, etc. With that I would also like to point out I would keep the voting age to 18 for the under 21's who join our Armed Forces. With the very nature of the job they are choosing they should have the choice of being able to vote” Jennifer, Wirral

3. Argument 3 – The voting age should stay at 18

“If it’s not broken, don't fix it” Derrick, Layland

“18 is the age of adulthood, of legal independence and of unrestricted activity. Only legal adults should have the vote” Anon

“18 is the age of majority. I don't see any reason to change this. 16 would be far too young and to return to the old 21 would not take account of the fact that by that age many young people are living totally independent lives. The school leaving age is being raised soon. It would be stupid to have people who were still at school being able to vote” Linda E, Leeds

“By the age of 18 one has a good understanding of how the country is performing. The UK life expectancy is about 80 years, so at 18 years nearly a quarter of one’s life has passed. Therefore, I think one easily has enough life experience by 18 to make an informed decision” Anon

“18 year olds are generally aware and intelligent – while some 16 year olds clearly are, far more are apathetic or not fully understanding of politics. Since it would be impractical to give the vote at differing ages based on a test of intelligence and political awareness, 18 is an optimal age” Anon, Sussex

“I myself am 21 years of age. I believe that my 'reasoned' political opinion has formed since my time away from home at university. I think that 18 is an appropriate age, otherwise political parties would make inappropriate commitments to try and win the votes of the young” Anon

“Apparently, the judgmental area of the human brain is not fully developed until the age of 19 (which might explain why there are so many motor accidents for young men of 17-21 age group). With age generally comes sagacity and deeper understanding without the knee-jerk, emotive reactions most of us have experienced in our youth” Alison, Cumbria

“Having had experience of 16 year old kids daily, if it's not on an iPhone or iPad, they haven't a clue about the real world” Dave S, Gosport

What’s your opinion of the minimum voting age? At what age do you think you were best-placed to vote in elections? And what do you think about the “age of majority”?

Add to the discussion using the Disqus comments section below

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