news 10 June 2024

New research from The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award shows young people are politically engaged – but disillusionment with politicians is putting them off voting

Four young people outside laughing together. They are all wearing rucksacks and hiking gear, 2 of them are looking at something on a mobile phone.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) is calling on politicians to meaningfully engage with young people ahead of the general election – as the charity’s new research shows disillusionment and disconnect risk deterring politically engaged young people from heading to the polls.

The research, conducted in partnership with consultancy Thinks Insight & Strategy, lays bare the views of more than 3,000 1424 year olds from across the UK.  

The research shows that two thirds of young people had engaged in one or more political activity over the last three months, and 53% of those aged 18 or over said they were interested in UK politicsyet only four in 10 of those eligible to vote (40%) said they would be likely to cast their ballot at the next general election*. The remaining three fifths (61%) said they would be unlikely to vote (18%) or were still questioning whether to head to the polls (43%).  

Reasons given for not committing to vote included the belief that it wouldn’t make any difference (31%), not knowing enough about the parties (30%) or that parties couldn’t be trusted to keep their promises (30%).  

More than half of 14-24 year olds (53%) disagreed or strongly disagreed that politicians in the UK listen to people their age, with 40% saying they believe politicians listen to 35-54 year olds the most. Half (50%) said they disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement “I trust politicians to make decisions in my interest”.  

Ruth Marvel, CEO, The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE), said: “This research confirms that, far from being apathetic or disengaged, young people are fiercely interested in their futures but feel disillusioned with our political system and the politicians who are elected to represent them. We urge all political parties to engage with young voters during this election campaign and take the action needed to give them the best possible chances in life.” 

Ved, 17, a Bronze and Silver DofE Award holder and Duke of Edinburgh’s Award UK Youth Ambassador, said: “I have always felt strongly and passionately about the future for myself, my generation and the country, but when it emerges that barely a quarter of young people think politicians in the UK listen to people their age, it’s hardly surprising that so many are disillusioned with politics at the moment. 

“With just weeks until the election, young people must have their voices heard. Many are taking to the polls for the first time to vote on policies they consider important in shaping their future. Those of us still ineligible to vote, myself included, are observing the campaign with some anxiety as the next five years of our lives are decided for us. It falls to politicians and the media to make space for young voices so we can have a say on our future at this pivotal time.” 

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award research also shows that: 

  • 80% of young people under 25 feel politicians listen to their age group the least. Young people believe politicians prioritise the views of those who are most likely to vote and pay taxes. 
  • 41% have signed an online petition, 39% have posted or shared content on social media, 30% have donated money to a campaign in support of a political or social cause, 19% have attended a protest or rally and 17% have contacted a politician about an issue that’s important to them. 
  • Over half feel comfortable sharing their views on political topics at school, university or in the workplace (54%). 

The DofE charity is also calling on policy makers to opt for a young person first approach to policy development, ensuring young people are consulted on decisions that affect them, and any potential implications for policy change acknowledged.



Notes to editors

For further information, photographs and interviews with young people or DofE spokespeople, please contact the DofE press office on 01753 727420 or email [email protected].

  • The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) commissioned Thinks Insight & Strategy, an independent research agency, to conduct a mixed methods research project with 3,662 (survey: 3,644 and online community: 18) 14-24 year olds from across the UK between 28 February and 14 March 2024. 
  • Respondents are aged 14-24 – reflecting the age range of young people supported by the DofE charity.  
  • *The data shows that, while two thirds of young people had engaged in one or more political activities over the last three months, only four in 10 of those eligible to vote say they are likely to cast their ballot at the coming general election (rating likelihood of voting at least eight out of 10 on a 10 point scale). Figures have been rounded to 1 decimal point – actual percentages come to ‘unlikely to vote’ 17.6%, ‘undecided’ 42.9%, and ‘likely to vote’ 39.6%. 
  • Funded by The Gosling Foundation, DofE Youth Ambassadors advocate for young people by sharing their expertise on key issues impacting them. Together, they make young people’s voices heard by speaking at events, meeting key decision-makers in Parliament and beyond, and feeding into decisions to shape the direction of the DofE charity’s work.

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