This article explores whether the past few years have witnessed what can accurately be described as a “youthquake” in British politics, following the candidature and election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party. It argues that the British Election Study team, who argue that we witnessed “tremors but no youthquake”, fail to advance a convincing case that turnout did not significantly increase among the youngest group of voters in the 2017 general election in the UK, as compared to the previous election. The article explains why their rejection of the idea of a youthquake having occurred is problematic, focusing on the limitations of the BES data, the team’s analysis of it and the narrowness of their conception of what the notion of a “youthquake” entails. This article argues that there is other evidence suggestive of increased youth engagement in politics, both formal and informal, and that some social scientists have failed to spot this due to an insufficiently broad understanding of both “politics” and “youth”. The article concludes that vital work needs to be done to better conceptualise and measure the political experiences, understandings and actions of young people, which are not adequately captured by current methods.
University of Lincoln, College of Social Science
Ben Kisby, University of Lincoln, School of School of Social Political Sciences
Bradley Allsop, University of Lincoln, School of School of Social Political Sciences