By Sveva Rembold, S2DE, European School of Varese.
Today we live in a world with a lot of changes and a lot of things happening. Climate change, war and migration are in the newspapers every day. In many countries people talk about teenagers and if we should be allowed to vote or not. To see what teenagers (aged 11-18) would vote if they could, I made a survey in my school, with a list of 5 political parties and 21 political priorities to choose from. Each party has an invented name so it has no direct connections with real life. After collecting and analysing all the answers, I found that the party based on environmental priorities gets nearly 60% of all votes, followed by a party based on justice priorities, while parties based on cool stuff, economy and security received less votes . I found also that the results are different for male and female students and for younger and older students. The results show that students are very motivated to vote and find environmental and social problems of our time very important.
In a lot of countries politicians discuss if teenagers above 16 should be allowed to vote, so I thought: “why not trying it out?”. Already in 1966 when, for example in Germany people could only vote with 21, the question came up if 18 year old teenagers should also be allowed to vote. And in fact the rules changed in 1970 and you could vote already with 18. Coming back to the question of voting with 16, there are a lot of pro arguments like: if young people could vote, we could decide more about our future and we would learn to make more responsible decisions. Another important argument is that we even have to pay some taxes, so it should be our right to decide what happens with the money. But obviously there are even some contra arguments, for example: If we want to change the age for voting, in some countries they will have to change the constitution which is very complex. Another contra argument is that most of us still live with an adult who probably has his own ideas about politics and could influence us, so our vote would not be really independent. Or we could even get influenced from the outside, for example by activists or even by social networks. I think many of these arguments are right, but at the same time it is also important that politicians know what we think and which political priorities we find most important. Therefore I organized a survey at my school to find out what teenagers would vote for if they could.
2. Materials and Methods
To find out what parties teenagers would vote and what is really important for them, I first created a list of parties and political priorities. I decided to use 5 parties which are based on groups of a total of 21 political priorities that I think are important for our lives and that I have read about in newspapers. The Sunflower party is mainly for protecting the environment, the Money party is for a strong economy, the Justice party is to help people who earn less money, the Everything’s cool party is mainly offering cool stuff for young people and the Protection party is mainly for more security in our life.
Table 1 shows the 5 imaginary parties and the priorities that I decided to link with each of the parties.
Then , I did this: first I prepared a survey with some questions like: what party and which priorities would you vote?
Each voter could select only one party and maximum 5 priorities. Also they had to write their age, nationality and gender.
The priorities question I asked because together with the party vote, afterwards I could see what the most important political things for teenagers are. In this way, with the results of the priority vote I could also understand what an ideal party for teenagers (11-18) would be.
Something that is very important too is that there have to be no real political names of parties or politicians so that the students don’t think too much about the real political parties, but vote what they really like.
Once the questions were ready, I printed all the surveys I needed for my whole school. Then with the help of my class teacher we distributed all the surveys to all class teachers of my school and they gave it to all the students of their classes.
After that, we collected all the surveys in a box and counted them all together. Afterwards I typed all party and priority votes into Microsoft Excel and sorted them in different categories. For example Age and Gender. I made to age groups: 11-14 and 15-18.
In total I received answers by 247 students. Of those who returned the survey, all voted for a single party, except 3% who returned a blank form. Figure 1 shows the total vote distribution for the 5 parties.
More than half of all votes (58%) did go to the Sunflower party. The second largest party is Justice with 18% of all votes, while the Money, Everything’s cool and Protection party received less than 10% each.
Then I divided the party votes in 2 age groups, from 11 to 14 and from 15 to 18. As you can see in both graphs of Figure 2, the most voted party is still the sunflower party with 66% for the younger group and 47% for the older group, showing that older students give more importance to other parties. For example the Justice party gets 14% more votes in the older group. In a similar way the Money party moves from 4% in the younger group, to 12% in the older group. This shows that both social justice and economy are more important for older students. But, there are two parties that remain almost the same for both age groups. These are the Everything’s Cool and the Protection parties.
If we divide the total votes by female and male, the results in Figure 3 show that the Sunflower party is the favourite of both groups, but with a clear preference by girls as compared to boys. For the girls the second most favourite party becomes the Justice party (22%) while for the boys the Justice and the Cool parties are the same. Only 4% of the girls voted the Cool party. Boys also think that money is important (12%) which is not that important for girls (only 2% of the votes).
In my survey I did not ask only for voting the parties but also for choosing the 5 most important political priorities. And it turned out like this: there are strong differences between single priorities and only in some cases the priorities of the same party show similar number of votes.
For example, the priorities of the sunflower party (less plastic, less climate change and environmental protection) got very similar number of votes, all close to 90-100 votes. But peace (also Sunflower Party) reached over 120 votes. Looking now at the Money Party, apart from its first priority (strong economy) with 63 votes, the other priorities are only around 10 votes. The Justice Party has the single political priority that received most votes of all, which is Help poor people with 134 votes. The remaining priorities of the Justice Party are around 20 votes, apart from Health Insurance, which is above 70 votes. All remaining priorities are below or close to 20 votes, except Less Crime (73) and More security (47) belonging to the Protection party.
As done for the party results, I also divided the priority results by gender and by age groups. To make the groups comparable, these results are again shown as percentages. This means that I computed the percentage of how many people that voted for a single priority belonged to a gender or an age group. Figure 5 shows that for 2 out of 4 priorities belonging to the Sunflower Party, girls found Environmental Protection and Peace more important than boys. For the Money Party priorities, boys showed slightly more interest in Strong Economy and More low cost flights than girls. For the priorities belonging to the Everything’s cool party, there is one of the largest differences: boys strongly prefer digitalization and robotics which have only 20% of the girls votes for these priorities. The next party is the Protection Party, which has the biggest difference between girls and boys for one priority, the “Less immigrants” priority. For this priority 11 out of the 13 students who voted it, are male (ca. 85%). On the contrary, the priority with the highest number of girls as compared to boys is Traveling, voted by 17 girls out of 27 total votes (ca. 63%).
Figure 6 shows priorities divided by age groups. Here we can see that in general the younger age group was larger than the older group. This is both because more younger students participated (137 vs. 110) and because older students often did not express all 5 preferences.
Other interesting differences are for example for More Religion, which has been voted by only by 4 young students. Another large difference was found for More factories, voted by 66% by older students and only 33% by younger. But in fact this difference is not very important because only 3 people in total voted for More Factories (Figure 4). For Social Networks, 80% of the voters belongs to the younger group and only 20% to the older and this difference becomes even stronger for Robotics (90% of young voters).
If I look at my experience I got actually quite the results I had expected. This is true for example for the many votes of the Sunflower Party, where I hoped that it would get the most votes. But I wasn’t expecting the Everything’s cool party to reach only 10% because I was thinking that many students would love the more funny priorities more than the more serious ones. Then, going to the priorities I did not think that Helping poor people would the most voted priorities. But these two results and the fact that I received bery little bland forms, show that students have really a high level of maturity for voting what is important to them. I also think that I got these results for a reason: for example the Sunflower party success could be influenced by the visibility of environmental activists like Greta Thunberg. And the Money and the Justice parties are more important for the older age group, because older students understand better the importance of social justice and economy. With the results it is possible to define the ideal party for my school, which should be based on the 5 priorities: Help poor people, peace, less climate, less plastic and more environmental protection.
If the students of my school could participate in political elections today, more than half of them would vote a party based on stronger environmental protection and peace, but the single most important political priority for them is to help poor people.
I thank my class teacher Ms. S. Schwarzer, who helped me in the school to distribute and collect all survey forms and I also thank the teachers who took time to answer the surveys with their classes. Also I thank all the students who participated.
And I thank my dad who supported me with the writing and he gave me a lot of courage.
I mostly used websites to help my research.
https://www.waehlenab16-bw.de/proundcontra.htm/ Used: 28 dic 2019 (still the same) 9 https://www.tagesspiegel.de/politik/wahlrecht-fuer-jugendliche-16-oder-18-jahre-ab-wann-sollman-waehlen-duerfen/24061134.html Used: 1 mar 2020 (still the same)
Cover image by Yes! magazine