I guess it’s possible this slogan was meant as a warning against the tyranny of the majority, but it seems more likely it was intended as a way of saying, “we are too many to be ignored.”
Either way, and given the preponderance of young people marching, “We are the 75%,” might have sent a stronger message.
— POLITICO Europe (@POLITICOEurope) June 24, 2016
Even so, no sooner had this emphatic support among young voters for remaining in the EU been noted a week ago, then another number started circulating widely — this one from Sky News who reported that among 18-24 year olds, the turnout had only been 36%.
Rather than viewing older voters as having betrayed the interests of their children and grandchildren, it looked like voter apathy among the young was as much to blame for the victory of the Leave camp.
But at the time, Barbara Speed at the New Statesman noted:
Sky isn’t claiming this is collected data – it’s projected, and a subsequent tweet said it was based on “9+/10 certainty to vote, usually/always votes, voted/ineligible at GE2015”. I’ve asked for more information on what this means, but for now it’s enough to say it’s nothing more than a guess.
Francesca Barber, who describes herself as British, European, and American, says “my generation failed to turn up… If we want our world to reflect our values and beliefs, we are going to have to engage and vote.”
But maybe before making strong judgments about generational failure, it’s worth having some renewed skepticism about the numbers in the Sky News tweet.
Michael Bruter, professor of political science and European politics at the LSE, and his colleague, Dr Sarah Harrison, have been analyzing responses from 2,113 British adults questioned between 24 and 30 June.
The Guardian reports:
Bruter and Harrison said they found turnout among young people to be far higher than data has so far suggested. “Young people cared and voted in very large numbers. We found turnout was very close to the national average, and much higher than in general and local elections.
“After correcting for over-reporting [people always say they vote more than they do], we found that the likely turnout of 18- to 24-year-olds was 70% – just 2.5% below the national average – and 67% for 25- to 29-year-olds.
This suggests that even if turnout among young voters had matched the national average, the outcome of the referendum would still have been the same.
For this reason, it’s perhaps worth restating: the outcome of the 2016 EU referendum was conclusive.
Nevertheless, there’s a strong argument to be made that a second referendum will still be necessary at the conclusion of Brexit negotiations, bearing in mind that no one even knows when or if that conclusion will be reached.
The EU has a serious credibility problem when it comes to its perceived lack of commitment to democratic processes. Many EU leaders are currently preoccupied with the fear that favorable terms for Brexit will have a domino effect across the Union. At the same time, some are calling for a “new vision for Europe.”
If the EU gets serious about this and goes beyond measures that are merely forms of damage control, then by the time the UK has finalized its withdrawal terms, the EU the UK will then be about to leave should be quite different from the one to which it now belongs.
This point will be reached in 2019 at the earliest or quite likely some years later. A referendum of British voters at that time would provide the basis for an informed decision.
This is not much different from having an opportunity and the time to read the small print before signing a contract. As things stand right now, British voters bought into a proposition whose terms are completely unknown.
Given that the Council of the European Union, through the Treaty of Nice, employs the use of a form of qualified majority voting which requires support representing 62% of the EU population, the UK could reasonably adopt the same principle in requiring that a second referendum seeking informed consent would need to cross the same threshold.
The EU and the UK have a common interest in showing that Brexit, as it unfolds, demonstrates a mutual commitment to the democratic process whatever the outcome.