The EU referendum is the single biggest public decision of a generation. As a youth work charity, we were concerned that the voices of young people – cited by several mainstream politicians as being key to this debate – were in danger of being overlooked.
Since May, Youth Focus: North East has been working with young people to raise awareness of the EU referendum and to increase political engagement among young people in our region. With this piece of work we were politically neutral; not funded by either side of the campaign and not promoting one side over the other. We wanted to create a platform to amplify the voices of young people in our region, after all Westminster is a long way from West Denton.
We spoke with over 1,000 young people, aged 16-25, using a variety of different methods to make sure young people could engage in the debate:
- Working with the My Manifesto steering group and a local digital developer we created an online opinion poll, My Referendum, for young people to engage digitally where they could say which way they thought they would vote while allowing them to change their minds.
- We took to the streets and asked young people for their views on the referendum, whether they thought their views were being taken seriously, and what they made of the information both camps had released.
- We visited town and city centres, colleges, universities, and youth settings to ask young people how they thought they thought they would vote.
- We held pizza and politics sessions at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and the Acklam Green Centre where we held workshops around the referendum and invited guest speakers to talk with young people about the issues.
- We held two hustings events in BALTIC, Gateshead and the ARC, Stockton with four speakers at each event from the leave and remain campaigns. These events were also live-streamed over Facebook and viewed by hundreds of others.
- Delivered EU referendum drop-in sessions to schools around the region, increasing young people’s knowledge of the EU and encouraging debate on key issues to them.
Our opinion poll has now closed. We engaged with 1,045 young people aged 16-25 years old from the North East of England and we can now reveal our findings.
- 662 (63% of those surveyed) said they would vote to remain in the European Union
- 383 (37% of those surveyed) said they would vote to leave the European Union
- Almost all 16 and 17 year olds polled said they would’ve voted in The Referendum had they been eligible
- 50% of 16-18 year olds already know how they’d vote if given the opportunity
“It’s been great to see our young people engaged by this landmark moment in British politics,” said Leon Mexter, chief executive of Youth Focus: North East. “The youth voice is often overlooked and under-valued in politics. It shouldn’t be, which is why we ran a shadow referendum, to help young people understand and connect with the complex issues and dynamics around leaving or staying in The European Union.”
Full Breakdown of Poll Results
Total Number of Votes: 1094
- 16-25 year olds in the North East who would vote Remain: 662
- 16-25 year olds in the North East who would vote Leave: 383
- 16-25 year olds from the rest of the country who would vote Remain: 30
- 16-25 year olds from the rest of the country who would vote Leave: 3
- 25+ year olds who would vote Remain: 12
- 25+ year olds who would vote Leave: 4