The dislocation of young people from political representation is a perennial problem for society. Take for example the recent Brexit referendum in the UK, 75% of 18-24 year-olds there voted to remain in the EU but their voice was not heard. This has resulted in huge disaffection among millennials about the direction their country is heading in.
Cliches abound in this debate with the youth often citing an aging political class that is 'out of touch' as being the root of the problem. On the other side, millennials are criticized for not being sufficiently engaged in political life and therefore not having their voices heard.
What is clear is that there is an absence of young people in the political feedback loop. This is to the detriment of society as a whole and something that should be addressed by elected representatives if at all possible.
We speak to elected reps every day about the challenges they face in reaching out to millennial constituents:
1. Yes. It is difficult to 'find' young people. Sometimes it is worthwhile going to where they congregate either online or in the community. To do this you will need to leverage the knowledge of your grassroots supporters, many of whom will be millennials themselves. Look for an introduction or reason for making contact just as you would do when approaching any other constituents.
2. Young people are not as squeamish about passing on their contact details so don't be afraid to ask for an email or social media contact. It is as simple as asking if they agree to being contacted by you on social media and then asking their name. Establishing this connection online will allow you to continue the relationship in a way that is natural for them and is far less time consuming for you.
3. Log their issues and follow-up with them. Good practice around issue tracking is just as important with millennials as it is with the rest of the population. Take their queries seriously and have a process in place to track these issues for follow-up. Being familiar with common issues like University grants and job support systems will greatly help in being able to respond quickly.
4. Build the channels whereby communication can continue. If you don't have social media accounts then get them set up. Again, use your grassroots community to help you understand the online channels that your constituents are using. Top tip: It's probably not FB or Twitter!
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