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UK General Election Voting Factors – Age

The traditional view of age and voting amongst political scientists was that it was not a factor in itself but that there were differences with each generation depending on the political experiences of that generation as they reached the age of voting.

Butler and Stokes found, in the 1960s, that the generation that had come to politics either side of the First World War had more Liberal voters, whereas the generation that came to politics in the 1940s had a pro Labour bias.

In 2010 the 18-24 age group preferred Labour over the Conservatives by 31% to 30% (with the Lib Dems also gaining 30%) while among the over 65 group this was reversed by 44% to 31% (with the Lib Dems on only 16% – apart from unskilled men their lowest support of any social group).

Although Labour won a majority of this group by 5% in 1997, in this election Labour was 13% ahead among the general population. From 1992, Labour has been performing worse in the 65+ group than the general population by between 6% and 9% (actually 6% in 2010) so it is probably more than the traditional generational effect and, in any case, with people living longer, this group now has more members from different political generations.

The problem for Labour is that this group is more likely to vote and about a third of votes in a general election are now cast by people over 60.

Votes for 16 and 17 year olds has become a hot political topic particularly following their inclusion in the Scottish Independence Referendum of 2014. Including this age group for the EU Referendum was debated but rejected. It is likely to continue as an issue especially if turnouts fall.