Poll finds younger Londoners poorly informed about forthcoming mayoral election

Poll finds younger Londoners poorly informed about forthcoming mayoral election

Almost 40 per cent of Londoners under the age of 35 do not yet know that an election for their city’s Mayor is to take place on 2 May, according to new polling by Savanta for think tank Centre for London

A further 29 per cent of those aged 34-54 and 12 per cent of over-55s were similarly unaware of the upcoming vote, believing either that there will not be such an election this year or not knowing if there will.

Twenty-four per cent of the under-informed 18-34 age group said they didn’t know whether or not a mayoral election would be taking place this year and 15 per cent said they thought there won’t be one.

As well as being better-informed about the contest, the seventh since the mayoralty was created, the over-55s were significantly more likely than the under-35s – by a margin of 93 per cent to 75 per cent – to say they could name the current Mayor.

The poll findings have been released as official campaigning for the Mayor and London Assembly elections intensifies, with only five weeks remaining until the in-person ballot takes place and with the full list of candidates due to be published. Londoners can also vote by post.

This year’s London elections will be the first conducted under the national government’s new Voter ID rules, which require people to show an approved form of photographic proof of who they are before being allowed to cast their three votes – two for different sections of the Assembly ballot and one for Mayor – at polling stations.

Responding to the Savanta findings, Centre for London chief executive Antonia Jennings said the new Voter ID rules are “yet another hurdle” in the way of younger people voting. Citing an estimate by official watchdog the Electoral Commission that one third of 18-24 year-olds across the country do not know they must now have ID, she said the new rule “seems ludicrous in the UK when we have so few cases of voter fraud”.

She added: “So often, we see manifestos and policy decisions which favour those turning out to vote. It makes sense, it’s how you get elected. Yet, as younger voters are becoming disenfranchised, feeling underrepresented, overlooked and, quite frankly, ignored by our elected officials, they lose out on the opportunity to shape policy and be heard. It becomes a self-perpetuating cycle.”

Savanta’s political research director, Chris Hopkins, said: “It is a helpful reminder to those engaged in politics that they are in the minority. Most people do not follow politics day-to-day, and our research shows a significant proportion of younger people in particular are either under or misinformed about this year’s mayoral election.”

Last week, marking the official start of campaigning, Greater London Returning Officer Mary Harpley said, “The work of the Mayor and the London Assembly affects the everyday life of every Londoner” and directed Londoners to the London Elects website to find out how to fill out ballot papers and different ways of voting.

Only residents of London are eligible to vote and they must be 18 years-old, a British, qualifying Commonwealth or European Union citizen, and be registered by 16 April. Those not yet registered can become so using the national government website.

Savanta also found that white Londoners and those of “mixed” ethnic background were more likely to say they could name the current Mayor than Asian or black Londoners. Only one in five of all Londoners could name their London Assembly member.

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