High youth population gives Kooyong’s young voters a chance to be heard

In a general population that is dominated by older voters, Swinburne's high local youth population has a chance to make its voice heard. Claudia Harvey reports. Today is the last chance to enrol for next month's federal election.

Kooyong’s high youth population could spell trouble for the local MP – federal Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg – at the federal election next month.

Swinburne political behaviourist Dr Rob Hoffman said close to a third of Kooyong’s voters are under 25, and that could be a positive for the local independent candidate, Dr Monique Ryan.

However, many first-time voters are still not enrolled to vote – and the deadline is 8pm today, Monday April 18.

Climate a key issue

Dr Hoffman, teacher of politics, history, and political philosophy, said that while people under 25 make up only 10 per cent of Australia’s voters, their high concentration in Kooyong and other inner-city electorates could put pressure on the current sitting members. 

“Where the Swinburne Hawthorn campus is located, and which is held by the Liberals but under threat from a climate-focused independent, 30 per cent of the voters are under 25,” he said.

Hear more from Dr Rob Hoffman and Swinburne students on the upcoming election in our weekly news podcast.

“So, where you have that concentration of younger voters, there is the capacity to make real meaningful change in terms of the makeup of the parliament.”

Swinburne student, Sophie*, 23, said she “absolutely” believed her vote could have a meaningful impact.

“I know that it can be very hard to look at how little an individual action can do, but I do believe that if all the people who thought it didn’t make a difference decided to vote, then it would make a difference, so I’ve got to participate even though it might be somewhat hard to distinguish exactly how much it means.”

Young voters have different focus

Hoffman said the popularity of candidates like Ryan may be reflective of young voters generally being more invested in issues that “may not be relevant to older voters who won’t be around so long”, such as climate change. 

We’ve seen a rise in what are called post-material values among younger voters – the idea that voters are no longer interested purely in their immediate economic security and have the luxury of looking to concerns like human rights, like climate, like broader public welfare

Hoffman said younger voters’ particular interest in these post-material values is also reflected in an overall higher approval of the Greens Party and the Labor Party.

”It’s a long-term trend that younger voters are particularly much more receptive to the Greens Party. It’s something like 30 per cent of voters under 25 will vote green against an average of about 10 per cent, and among over 65s … about 2 per cent. You see higher Labour support, you see lower satisfaction with the government,” he said.

A UComms poll conducted on April 12 found Ryan held a 59 to 41 per cent two-party preferred lead over Frydenberg , it was reported in The Canberra Times.

Swinburne student, Jenna, 20, said she would be voting for the Labor Party.

“Personally, I grew up in a very Labor household, so I think a lot of my choices are going to be leaning towards the issues they’re raising,” she said. 

“I think the Labor Party has a better outlook on the discrimination bill. I think the Liberal Party isn’t appreciating how important it is and they’re not letting it be a main factor at the election and I think it should be.” 

Lower proportion of young people enrolled

Youth engagement in the election has improved compared to previous elections, but voting enrolment is lower among this demographic compared to the overall Australian population, Dr Hoffman said.

Enrolment among under-25-year-olds is about 85 per cent as opposed to above 95 per cent for the overall population.

“In terms of why younger people are less likely to be enrolled to vote, part of that is disengagement, not with politics generally, but with traditional establishment political processes – less satisfaction in major parties, less satisfaction in government, and a disjuncture between what younger Australians see as important, and what governments treat as important.”

Angus, 19, said he had been paying “not much” attention to political parties and their policies recently.

“I don’t really pay much attention to it all because I don’t really take much interest in it. I don’t really know much about what everyone stands for and all that, so not really leaning in any particular direction,” he said.

When asked if he thought his vote could make a difference, 20-year-old student Nick says he believes his vote counts, but is apathetic towards the upcoming election.

“I’m not too fussed about the outcome, whether it’s this or that,” he said.

The deadline to enrol is 8pm today, Monday April 18.

*Not her real name.