Over the last several years, calls to lower the voting age in Australia have become increasingly widespread. In June 2018, Australia’s youngest-ever senator—Greens representative Jordon Steele-John—introduced a bill to parliament aiming to reduce the age of (non-compulsory) voting from 18 to 16 years.
But do young Australians agree?
In 2013, the Our Lives participants were 18-19 years old and preparing to vote for the first time. When asked in the Wave 4 survey whether they felt that the voting age should be reduced to 16, only one per cent agreed. In fact, as researchers Zareh Ghazarian and Jacqueline Laughland-Booÿ explain in an article published recently in Australian Quarterly, Our Lives participants overwhelmingly felt that the voting age should definitely (72%) or probably (24%) stay at 18. These results were consistent regardless of participants’ education, background, or political affiliation. But conversations about voting, these researchers point out, should not focus solely on age; but also knowledge. Young Australians appear to closely weigh up their options and wish to make informed choices. They may not, however, always have access to enough information about political issues or processes through their schooling experiences.
In the lead-up to the 2019 federal election, participants in the Our Lives project will once again have an opportunity to share their views and give crucial insight to the experiences of an emerging generation.
Published in: Ghazarian, Z and Laughland-Booÿ (2019) Young People, Political Knowledge and the Future of Australian Democracy. Australian Quarterly, 90(1), pp.38-43.