Budgeting On The Younger Voter


From top: Dáil Eireann; Derek Mooney

Though the big political event today is the Budget, I do not intend to devote too much time to it here.

So much of what is to be announced has already been trailed out that the members of the most ancient and noble orders of the economic and political commentariat could have filed their copy late on Sunday night, taken most of today off and left it to the theatre and TV critics to cover proceedings.

Not that the drama and theatrics of Budget Day are unwelcome or unappealing, but in today’s world setting the government’s budget is more a process than an event.

Much of what the Minister will do today is to confirm which political and business journalists have the most informed sources. The rest is him setting out the conclusions that have almost been reached on the income and expenditure side.

I say “almost” as today’s speech is not the quite the final, final word on the Budget. That comes with the publication, in a week or two, of the full details in the legislation, the Finance Bill 2017, that underpins the Budget. It, to quote previous Finance Bills, will:

“…provide for the imposition, repeal, remission, alteration and regulation of taxation, of stamp duties and of duties relating to excise and otherwise to make further provision in connection with finance including the regulation of customs.”

There may be a bit of “will (s)he, won’t (s)he” during the day as speculation mounts around the corridors of Leinster House about how this TD or that Minister of State is wrestling with their conscience on how they will vote for some cut or increase.

Though it is unlikely that we will hear a “man overboard” cry on any Financial Resolution votes due later tonight, even the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

Theresa May knows the truth of that line only too well… and I am not referring to her nightmare of a conference speech last week. On April 18 last Mrs May thought she had the British Labour party on the ropes when she called a snap election to be held on June 8.

She was convinced that she had the numbers. All the Tory pollsters were telling her that. Indeed, so too were almost all the national TV and newspaper polls and even a few leaked Labour Party ones. Virtually everyone was telling her that she was set to win a landslide which could see her increase her working majority from 17, right up to maybe even 140.

But, as we now know they were wrong, badly wrong.

So was I. A few days before the June 8th vote I ran a poll on Twitter asking people how they thought the election would go. The numbers were interesting and ran against the still prevailing view that May was set to win big.

While a plurality, 41%, thought that the Tories would be back with a majority, a sizeable number, 34%, thought that Corbyn would emerge as the winner with the balance, 25% predicting a hung parliament. My own personal prediction was that the Tories would only pick up an extra 10-15 seats, as I felt a higher young vote could be a factor.

It was, but in a far more important and significant way than we realised at the time.

A major piece of research conducted by four noted US and UK election experts has shown that not only was the youth vote vital to the Corbyn surge, so too was the way in which this new cohort of young and first-time voters informed themselves.

The research, which was conducted for a book the four academics plan to publish soon, entitled: Youthquake! Brexit, the 2017 British General Election and Beyond, found that:

A flood of young voters, many of whom had relatively low levels of political knowledge, used the internet to get news about the general election.

In other words, the 2017 UK general election saw the internet, particularly social media, finally having a big impact on how individual people voted and the overall outcome.

The research found that those who used the internet to get their news about the general election were far more likely to have voted Labour. Conversely, it found that those who used the internet to gather political news less often were much more likely to vote Tory.

The impact was twofold. Young voters were not only mobilised to turn out and vote (turnout among 18-29 y/o went up by about 19% compared to the 2015 election), they were also persuaded as to whom they should support.

So, their decision to vote and the choices they made were associated with the volume of election news that they consumed online.

While it can be argued that there were very specific conditions in the febrile and uncertain political atmosphere in the UK in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum vote that may have compelled many young people to vote, it does fit in with what some believe may be “a global generational shift of voting and political engagement”.

It is a potential shift that sees a cohort of new voters who do not perceive government as something to be whittled away until it is as small as possible, but rather as their best protector against the perils not only of globalisation and automation, but of affordable housing, education and healthcare.

Is this something we might see here? I suspect it is.

But politicians and pundits be warned. While these new voters may get their news online that does not mean they are a ready and available support base for any twitter-savvy politician who knows how to produce great selfies. Content matters, even online.

Bear this in mind when Ministers and TDs take to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and SnapChat tonight with memes, photos and video clips to reassure generation rent that all may yet be well in Fine Gael’s republic of opportunity – provided you get up in time.

Derek Mooney is a communications and public affairs consultant. He previously served as a Ministerial Adviser to the Fianna Fáil-led government 2004 – 2010. His column appears here every Tuesday morning. Follow Derek on Twitter: @dsmooney

8 thoughts on “Budgeting On The Younger Voter

  1. :-Joe

    So, the internet and social media is relevent to voters now?…


    Perhaps now it has become relevant to the coalition of FF/FG, the giant turd of destruction that is your PR game with it’s intent to curry favour and polute the young minds all over again on the latest communications platforms that seem to have taken you the last twenty years to figure out how to manipulate. You’re a bit slow on the uptake or was all the time just well spent in scheming?..

    Is it why you’re regularly on BS now instead of banging out memo’s on your auld typewriter like back in the heady salad days of the Fine to Fail party when they crashed the economy into the earth’s core?…

    I’ll give you 10 out of 10 for per-severe-nonsense though, if nothing else….

    I’m still not buying your PR lemons-as-gold anytime soon but there’s always a chance of early on-set Alzheimer’s … or even euthanasia’s a possibility I suppose.

    Well fupp me, always something new…. it’s like getting an update from the past… by an ex- henchman of a super villain from an auld bond movie.


  2. man

    i know we shud not cut tax and use it to solve homeless crisis etc. . . but I’d prefer the extra money in my pay packet. It’s selfish, but that’s what i want. even tho it’ll be nothing, like €15 a month tops. . . i feel like i’ve paid thru the nose the last ten years, worked really hard, gotten good pay rises, just to have it all taken off me. gimme something back. use the money put aside for services on actual services instead of wasting it away on things like irish water etc.

    1. ahjayzis

      I think it’s a bit of a false economy. I’d rather pay more and then not have to fork out for bin collections, GP visits, and the like. Just take it off me once so I know where I stand for the month.

      Say if it’s childcare – a fiver a week isn’t going to do squat for the people paying a second mortgage for child minding, but a fiver a week from a million people could fund an actual state service that would cost everyone less.

      1. Harry Molloy

        don’t agree with it either.
        I’d much rather see funds going towards creating efficiencies which would save huge amounts in the future.
        you would probably have to spend a few bob creating lean teams though, and would need to be able redeploy and even make redundant a lot of public sector workers also.

        1. Cian

          If this is true (that there are huge inefficiencies in the public sector) then I’m better off getting my fiver back and spending it in an efficient private sector company.

          Or to use ahjayzis’s bin collection example: if it’s provided by an inefficient local council it will ‘cost’ me €500 (indirectly through my taxes). But if I get it a private company it only costs €300.

        2. :-Joe

          You can’t fix the problems without political will.

          FG / FF have no political will to do anything progressive beyond the bare minimum of what is demanded of them by the public.

          The bare minimum, not progressive or proactive thinking… beyond their own interests.


    2. Gorev Mahagut

      So it isn’t all a right-wing media conspiracy sorted out by brown envelopes and back-room deals. It turns out Irish people are actually just short-sightedly mean and selfish, and vote accordingly.

Comments are closed.