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Rolling News

European Elections Will young people get out and vote?

Author Leon Diop likens the seven phases of climbing Everest to engaging young voters in the upcoming European Parliament election.

POLITICAL ORGANISATIONS AND institutions are in full swing with their engagement campaigns about voting in the European and local elections only a couple of weeks away.

Institutions like the European Parliament are running voter drives like #UseYourVote ahead of 7 June. Part of the push is focused on the younger voter, hoping to encourage them to turn out for this election.

With the world being connected more than ever. With political crises in every
direction you look. With all the information you need just a couple of clicks away, surely Gen Z and some of the younger millennials are more tuned in than ever, right? . . .

I’m afraid it’s not that simple.

There are a couple of challenges we face to engage younger voters. Unfortunately, I believe we have a mountain to climb and that mountain is as high as Everest.

There are seven phases to climbing Everest and I believe there are seven things that we must overcome to engage a younger audience in politics.

The peak of Everest is the hardest point to reach but it’s not the most difficult part of the
journey. Phase 6 (the death zone) is where most people fall on Everest — and the online political engagement space.

Phase 1, Base Camp – Establishing your online presence

This is the beginning of the journey.

Having the right social media and entertainment platforms that young voters are using is key. Using them in the right way is even more important. For example, understanding that Tik Tok is not a social media site. It is an entertainment platform. You don’t check Tik Tok, you watch TikTok. So you need to entertain them to keep them engaged there.

You check social media sites like X and Instagram so you need to engage with communities differently there.

With a significant number of people now getting their news from social media, it is wise for organisations who want to connect with younger audiences to have them set up and provide regular updates.

Phase 2, Climb towards the icefall – Apathy

Why should young people care? Politics for many young people is a far away land. A land where people they don’t relate to regularly and have vastly different life experiences to make decisions about their lives. The reason why we don’t care is the reason why we should care. As young people, decisions about our lives are being made. If we don’t influence those decisions, other people will make them for us.

Phase 3, The Valley of Silence – Information 

Information is knowledge and knowledge is power. To empower young voters we must equip them with the knowledge to help them make an informed decision. A lot of younger people are not fully aware of the workings of the local Irish political system or how the European Parliament functions.

Many don’t know, for example, in European elections, that a winning candidate will join a political group that their party is aligned with, rather than just representing their party. For example, voting for Fine Gael is a vote for the European People’s Party.

Information in clear and concise ways are needed. 

Phase 4, Camp 2 – Retention 

Once issues of apathy and information have been overcome, organisations face their next challenge. Retention. Holding on to an audience of young people is harder than ever. Partially because of the competition you have in the online space but mostly because attention spans now are much shorter and the next exciting thing is one scroll away. Especially if the content is boring.

To keep young people engaged for longer periods of time, a thing called CQC is needed: Consistent Quality Content.

Consistent being the key word. If anyone takes a break for too long, they lose momentum and the rest of the climb will become next to impossible. A presence of high quality is needed in content to keep young people engaged. This is regardless of platform.

Phase 5, Lhotse Wall – Information manipulation

Another major obstacle when climbing Everest is the Lhotse wall. Another huge mountain blocking climbers from their main goal. In terms of political engagement for younger voters, this comes in the form of information manipulation.

How can young people know who to trust?

When a political organisation or institution puts out information, it is fighting an uphill battle but it is also fighting an avalanche of disinformation that is flooding the same spaces. We have no option but to continue to trudge through this and provide continuous, reliable, accurate content.

Phase 6, The Death Zone – Cringe

The death zone is where most people fall on Everest. It is not because of the obstacles on the ground but because of the lack of oxygen. You can have the highest level campaign. You can cut through the noise of disinformation and get your point across in a clear and concise way.

However, if the campaign is “cringey” in any way, the oxygen will be sucked out of it. Here’s the problem though, everything is cringey. Doing anything is cringey, not doing anything is cringey. Liking something is cringey. Having fun while doing something is cringey.

There is no deeper shame for an 18-year-old than being perceived as cringe. This is a trend we need to end. We need to make politics cool again, but how do we make the uncool, cool? Having travelled to the European Parliament a couple of times and
hearing it from the horse’s mouth from my younger European counterparts, it’s about the source of the information. If people can get their information across from those who young people perceive as “cool”, they are onto a winner.

Phase 7, Final summit – Converting the votes

The hardest point to get to but the easiest point to be at. Once the previous challenges have been overcome, climbers reach the peak and get to see the world for all its beauty. The metaphorical beauty in this situation is a strong voter turnout in younger populations in Ireland and across EU member states. A strong democracy can be difficult to obtain but it will be worth every step, obstacle and challenge when we get there.

Leon Diop is an author and founder of Black and Irish. He is a mixed race man from Tallaght. He is a host of the Black and Irish podcast with RTÉ. He currently serves on the board of the Childhood Development Initiative, Tallaght and Work Equal.


This work is co-funded by Journal Media and a grant programme from the European Parliament. Any opinions or conclusions expressed in this work are the author’s own. The European Parliament has no involvement in nor responsibility for the editorial content published by the project. For more information, see here.

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