Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. UK Politics
9 June 2017updated 01 Aug 2021 8:34am

Thanks to Jeremy Corbyn, young people swayed the 2017 general election result

Turning out in large numbers, 18 to 24-year-olds voting Labour stopped the Tories winning a majority.

By Anoosh Chakelian

We don’t have official figures yet, but early estimates suggest a huge young voters’ turnout played a big part in Labour’s gains.

There is no way of knowing exactly how many 18 to 24-year-olds voted at the moment, but the overall turnout figure is estimated to be 68.7 per cent – up from 66.1 per cent in 2015 – and commentators suggest this includes an unusually high turnout among the young.

Polling company YouGov had the most accurate picture of the result, its findings showing the gap narrowing and predicting a hung parliament scenario. It is also the polling company that allowed most for the scenario of significant numbers of young people voting.

An ICM poll a week ago found that 63 per cent of young people said they were “absolutely certain” to vote, and estimates now suggest it could be even higher. The percentage flying around at the moment, reported by Sky News and various other outlets but yet to be confirmed, is that turnout among 18 to 24-year-olds could be as high as 72 per cent. This would be an astonishing increase on 2015, when 43 per cent of young voters were estimated to have turned out, and on the EU referendum, in which it was estimated that 64 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds voted.

As the i points out, this would mean a huge departure from recent history – in 2005, only 37 per cent of young people voted, and in 2001 it was 39 per cent.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

Labour’s surge is underpinned by young voters. All the polling beforehand showed it was the most popular party among 18 to 24-year-olds, with YouGov finding 71 per cent  would vote Labour (compared with just 15 per cent backing the Conservatives.)

Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign focused heavily on young people – a key manifesto pledge being to scrap tuition fees. His campaign style – rallies across the country, and fewer stage-managed speeches and press conferences than Theresa May – also appealed more to this demographic.

Content from our partners
Transport is the core of levelling up
The forgotten crisis: How businesses can boost biodiversity
Small businesses can be the backbone of our national recovery

In addition, Labour had viral news on its side. As BuzzFeed reported, pro-Corbyn articles by “alt-left” sites were shared on an enormous scale on social media. I hear that nearly 25 per cent of UK Facebook users watched a Momentum video on the website in the penultimate week of campaigning. This is a particularly effective way of reaching young people, and inspiring them to vote – something the Tories weren’t as good at.