According to a number of conservative supporters, communism is apparently the reason for Labour’s popularity with young people in the 2017 general election.
Amongst UK 16-24 year olds:
50% have never heard of Lenin.
70% have never heard of Mao.
72% have never heard of Pol Pot.
I think this helps explain why so many are prepared to back those (including Corbyn) who have flirted with the totalitarian far-left.
— James Bickerton (@JBickertonUK) November 23, 2017
Yet, there is limited evidence to suggest this. There are the odd few obsessed with Marx, Stalin, Trotsky; but the majority of young people are wary of communism and associate several communist leaders with crimes against humanity.
Labour’s popularity among young people is due to their ability to appeal to younger voters. Labour’s media presence, policies tailored towards young people and the cosmopolitan world view of many young people appealed to the 64% of 18-24 year olds who voted in the general election. Unless the Conservative Party tries harder to appease younger voters, they are unlikely to gain a significant proportion of their vote.
The media has a significant influence on our lives and young people tend to consume media sources biased towards Labour’s policies. Statistics show that those aged 18-24 spend over 6 hours a week on social media, another major influencer. Corbyn, the Labour Party and Momentum all have a significant social media presence. Jeremy Corbyn has three times more Facebook likes and Twitter followers than Theresa May, in addition to several celebrity endorsements.
Left-leaning media platforms such as The Canary were circulated widely. If the Conservatives wish to improve their prospects with young people, they must improve their online presence.
Unless the Conservative Party tries harder to appease younger voters, they are unlikely to gain a significant proportion of their vote.
Labour’s policies also directly targeted younger voters, compared to Conservative policies. Labour appealed to the younger demographic with promises to abolish tuition fees; increase the minimum wage; reversing the abolition of housing benefit for 18–24 year olds and increasing funding for mental health services.
Arguably, the Conservatives simply weren’t doing enough to attract younger voters. Their main policies focused on boosting youth employment and increasing the number of apprenticeship schemes available – but these are just restatements of existing policies.
Simply put, young people aren’t voting Labour because they sympathise with communists. They are voting for Labour because Labour is proposing policies which are beneficial to younger people, and are targeting young voters specifically through carefully-curated social media campaigns.
If leading Conservatives wish to gain more of the youth vote, they should spend more time focusing on why they are failing to gain youth support, not pointing the finger at a political ideology.