UK Residents Discuss Retiring Seniors from Voting in Elections
As another general election looms on the horizon for the United Kingdom, many voters who are staring down the barrel of the multi-generational impact of Brexit are asking once again if older people should be banned from voting.
The argument poses itself at a time of social and political conflict that has seen an inordinately large chasm develop between those young and older people, not only in the UK but also in the United States. The differences between the two are perhaps the most glaring when casting a gaze toward the future. Issues such as climate change, data security, LGBTQ Rights, Internet freedom and access rights, economic security that hasn’t scaled to meet the needs of this generation or future generations and many other issues that some young voters feel that older people don’t fully grasp, completely lack an awareness of or whose participation in election only promotes a hindrance to- or absolute reversal- of progress on issues that will impact the majority for decades to come.
Voter rights advocates, however, are calling foul, claiming that voting rights are not negotiable and such alienation from civic duty would set a dangerous precedent that could open the door to discrimination against other groups of qualified voters who have a dissenting opinion from the masses.
The debate around asking senior citizens to step aside and allow younger voters to take control of their future with the expectation that they’ll live longer and be left to suffer the consequences of choices made by those in their final phase of life stems from the 2016 elections that saw the UK decide to exit the European Union and the US elevating the most divisive President in history to power. While the conversation has been met with criticism, it has found and equal amount support from those who place blame for the current social and political circumstances squarely in the laps of older people with antiquated world views that do not reflect the future young people want.
Among the reasons put forth by those proposing to retire seniors from voting are the studies that demonstrate their vulnerability to manipulation via deceptive and conspiratorial stories and their eagerness to enthusiastically share such “fake news” postured as political facts. This is perceived as dangerous to the sacrosanct institutions of governance and a nation’s ability to elect competent leadership that operates in allegiance with a future vision rather than stagnation. Proponents of the measure also believe that a vast amount of those aged 50+ are more deeply convicted to beliefs that predispose them to supporting racist, homophobic or xenophobic candidates and legislation.
In fact, another study shows that while Baby Boomers might be the most homophobic generation, millennials possess the largest demographic of LGBTQ+ identifying individuals.
In addition, as technology and science has experienced a massive forward thrust in the last 20 years alone, older people often exhibit attitudes that dismiss issues like climate change as science fiction instead. Those who either deny climate change exists or deem it irrelevant to them since Donald Trump falsely claimed it was made up by China, increases with age and also conservative political ideology. A total of 52% of Americans who described themselves as “very rightwing” in a YouGov poll published in The Guardian insisted global warming was a hoax.
There is an indisputable marriage of conservatism with age. Older generations experienced an era where sexism, homophobia and racism were normalized in society when they were in their most formative years. Liberalism was considered a radical movement and largely considered an attack on the heavily embedded religious and conservative views that permeated everyday life. In the scope of their lifetime, the slow evolution of social awareness has been challenging to adapt to, requiring significant reprogramming of indoctrinated belief systems and social opinions passed down from the generations that came before them.
Younger voters see conservatism as massively damaging to their safety and the future in which they must thrive as where older conservatives believe young people are beholden to fantastical ideas that are separated from their reality and who can’t seem to agree on anything even among themselves. Most Baby Boomers have justifiably criticized those younger than them for “Lazily sitting out of elections” while disparaging the results of them. And, it’s true. Research shows that while Millennials engage in a lot of activism, especially on social media, they’re less likely to show up in the vote booth when compared to the Boomer generation.
Legislation in the United Kingdom has been proposed to lower the voter age requirement from 18 years old to 16. Such a move would increase the participation in an election, but might sway the results in favor of progressive candidates. An effort to retire older voters from the process would achieve a similar result. However, removing eligible voters from the rolls has been condemned as undemocratic, and while the conversation continues, it doesn’t seem likely such legislation would ever pass in a government body mostly comprised of men over the age of 60.