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2020 | Buch

Lowering the Voting Age to 16

Learning from Real Experiences Worldwide


Über dieses Buch

This book explores the consequences of lowering the voting age to 16 from a global perspective, bringing together empirical research from countries where at least some 16-year-olds are able to vote. With the aim to show what really happens when younger people can take part in elections, the authors engage with the key debates on earlier enfranchisement and examine the lead-up to and impact of changes to the voting age in countries across the globe. The book provides the most comprehensive synthesis on this topic, including detailed case studies and broad comparative analyses. It summarizes what can be said about youth political participation and attitudes, and highlights where further research is needed. The findings will be of great interest to researchers working in youth political socialization and engagement, as well as to policymakers, youth workers and activists.


Chapter 1. Introduction
This introductory chapter outlines the rationale for the book. This is the first volume that brings together empirical research from many countries that have lowered the voting age and embeds these case studies in discussions of theoretical and conceptual questions surrounding earlier enfranchisement. The chapter reviews the key contestations around the issue and discusses the arguments put forward by proponents and opponents of allowing 16-year olds to vote. Taking into account analytical implications from this review, it then describes the structure of the book and provides an overview of the contributions.
Johannes Bergh, Jan Eichhorn
Chapter 2. Consequences of Lowering the Voting Age to 16: Lessons from Comparative Research
Two quasi-mechanical forces push in different directions when we consider consequences of lowering the voting age to 16. On the one hand, lowering the voting age would provide votes to young adults still in school and living in their parental homes. These circumstances should (theory tells us) boost the turnout of those individuals not only at their first election but throughout their ensuing lifetimes. Considering that the previous such reform (lowering the voting age to 18) had the opposite consequences (as this chapter explains), finding a way to undo the deleterious consequences of that reform has a high priority in the minds of many, and Votes at 16 might just do the trick. On the other hand, are sixteen-year-olds mature enough to understand the consequences of their party choices? Or might they rather simply vote more-or-less at random, adding to the volatility of election outcomes that has already been growing apace in recent years? This chapter uses empirical evidence from historic cases in an attempt to evaluate these possibly countervailing effects.
Mark N. Franklin
Chapter 3. Understanding the Policy Drivers and Effects of Voting Age Reform
A common feature of debates about lowering the voting age to 16 has been an absence of analytical research which might explain the historical or contemporary policy drivers for voting age reform or its potential effects. This chapter provides the first such attempt to fill this gap in the literature, establishing and then applying a thematic analytical framework to explain the drivers of voting age reform. It advances a thesis that there are at least four thematic models that we can apply to enhance our understanding of the policy origins, justifications, and impacts associated with reforming the age of enfranchisement. The chapter applies these models to understand policy drivers informing voting age reform in the UK over the past 50 years or so. The chapter concludes that voting age reform in the late 1960s and early 21st century draws on the same policy drivers but they differ in their context and importance.
Andrew Mycock, Thomas Loughran, Jonathan Tonge
Chapter 4. Political Knowledge, Civic Education and Voting at 16
To justify reducing eligibility to vote to age 16 is to show how it serves as a means to enhanced democratic political engagement. Hence the question posed here is under what, if any, circumstances does reducing the voting age enhance political engagement. Political engagement is shorthand for the second, qualitative dimension of electoral participation. The first dimension is that of turnout, a purely quantitative expression. If our concern is limited to this dimension, then we should address making voting compulsory. But, in doing so, we risk bringing to the polls an additional number of less sophisticated voters. This is also the challenge posed to voting at 16 which the data shows, can also raise turnout. This chapter concentrates on the second, qualitative, dimension of political participation, which we can characterize as political engagement, a combination of political interest and knowledge. And here the relationship is far from clear. The conclusion is thus that the first priority must be to promote natural experiments to test, and potentially establish, this relationship.
Henry Milner
Chapter 5. Voting at 16 in Practice: A Review of the Austrian Case
This chapter reviews the case of Austria, a country that has implemented a general voting age of 16 in 2007, in an effort to assess the medium-term real-world impact of this policy measure. After providing a review of Austria’s policy implementation and the existing research on voting at 16, novel data is presented that allows for a comparison of 16- and 17-year-olds to older voter cohorts on several important political indicators. Overall, the evidence is encouraging to supporters of voting age 16. Even though 16- to 17-year-olds exhibit somewhat lower general interest in politics and lower internal efficacy, turnout is generally higher compared to older first-time voters and similar to the electorate’s average, they follow electoral campaigns to the same extent as do other young voters, and they exhibit considerably high levels of external efficacy and satisfaction with democracy. The chapter closes by discussing implications of the results for policymakers as well as avenues for further research on the long-term impact of implementing a voting age of 16.
Julian Aichholzer, Sylvia Kritzinger
Chapter 6. Does Voting at a Younger Age Have an Effect on Satisfaction with Democracy and Political Trust? Evidence from Latin America
This chapter investigates whether lowering the minimum voting age to 16 has a positive effect on voters’ satisfaction with democracy and political trust. In particular, it examines if voters that were enfranchised at a younger age show more positive political attitudes. In Latin America, five countries have lowered the voting age to 16. Cuba, Nicaragua and Brazil have been the pioneers in the region and worldwide in the inclusion of under 18-year-old voters, while Ecuador and Argentina changed their electoral laws following a recent global trend in debating the enfranchisement of young voters. After examining the political and social contexts in which these electoral laws were adopted in these five countries, the chapter analyzes whether voters who could Vote at 16 show more positive evaluations of democracy and trust in the national government, parliament and political parties compared to voters that were enfranchised at an older age. The evidence shows that early enfranchisement is marginally associated with satisfaction with democracy and strongly associated with trust in political parliaments and parties.
Constanza Sanhueza Petrarca
Chapter 7. Votes at 16 in Scotland: Political Experiences Beyond the Vote Itself
This chapter analyzes the evidence about youth political engagement since the lowering of the voting age in Scotland. The process that leads to 16- and 17-year olds being allowed to take part in all local and Scotland-wide, but not UK, general elections itself is insightful. Tracing the development of the legal changes, the chapter discusses how public perceptions changed between enfranchising younger voters for the 2014 independence referendum initially and then extending the lowered voting age for all Scottish elections in 2015. The chapter further reviews the empirical evidence that has been collected in Scotland during and after the referendum. Using both quantitative data from representative surveys and qualitative data from interviews with young people, the chapter offers insights into why young Scots showed significantly higher levels of political engagement ahead of the 2015 general election than their peers elsewhere in the UK—across all social classes. Examining the factors influencing young people’s political socialization, the chapter discusses the implications, especially for the role of civic education in schools across the UK and research into enfranchisement more widely.
Christine Huebner, Jan Eichhorn
Chapter 8. Votes at 16 in Germany: Examining Subnational Variation
In Germany, eleven of sixteen states have lowered the voting age for municipal elections or state and municipal elections from 18 to 16. This chapter describes the German case and provides evidence on the political consequences of these reforms. Using the so-called representative electoral statistics, the authors show that turnout among 16- to 20-year olds is higher than among citizens up to ten years older. Even though comparisons of turnout among 16- and 17-year olds with that among 18- and 19-year-olds remain inconclusive, the authors support a lowering of the voting age, because it would imply that more citizens experience their first election when 20 years or younger, which should be beneficial for higher turnout rates in the long run. As vote choices are concerned, there seems to be a slight tendency for younger voters to vote for left parties, in particular, the Greens, as well as smaller parties more generally, while the Christian Democratic CDU does worse. Germany’s political parties seem to be aware of this: Center-left governing coalitions passed almost all reforms in states where the voting age was regulated by state law rather than states where state constitutions had to be changed.
Arndt Leininger, Thorsten Faas
Chapter 9. Modernizing Voting in a Post-transition Country: The Estonian Experience of Lowering the Voting Age
This chapter tracks the process of lowering the voting age for municipal elections in Estonia and looks at the results of the 2017 elections, when 16- to 17-year olds could cast their votes for the first time. The analysis highlights the importance of interaction between youth advocacy and political actors in parliament, as well as getting non-parliamentary institutional actors involved in the next stages. The modernization of voting via internet tools has revealed unexpected results in terms of young voters’ engagement. Most of them preferred conventional voting at polling stations instead of internet voting widely used in Estonia. In contrast, the electoral campaign reached young people mainly via social media and the Internet. Ironically, debates and regulations aiming to secure fair and free elections for youth evaluated the situation in the opposite way, assuming that the campaign would have been based on traditional modes, but voting would have been done online.
Anu Toots, Tõnu Idnurm
Chapter 10. Why Did Young Norwegians Mobilize: External Events or Early Enfranchisement?
Since the terrorist attacks in Norway in July 2011, there has been a general rise in political participation among young Norwegians. This was evident just a few weeks after the attack, when turnout among first-time voters (the age group 18–21) went up by 11 percentage points in the local elections (to 46%). In those September 2011 elections, the voting age was lowered from 18 to 16 in a selected group of 20 municipalities. Turnout was also quite high among 16- and 17-year olds (58%). This level of participation has remained stable among young voters in later elections. Relying on quantitative data on turnout by age, membership in political youth parties and qualitative interviews with first-time voters, the chapter discusses how three different mechanisms—life cycle, generational and period effects—may explain this mobilization. The authors find strong life-cycle effects which account for stable differences between age groups.
Guro Ødegård, Johannes Bergh, Jo Saglie
Chapter 11. Lowering the Voting Age from the Ground Up: The United States’ Experience in Allowing 16-Year Olds to Vote
Since a constitutional amendment in 1971, the voting age in America has been 18 for virtually all elections nationwide. In 2013, Takoma Park, Maryland lowered the voting age to 16 for its local elections. Several other cities in Maryland followed suit. Then, in 2016, Berkeley, California voters approved a ballot measure to lower the voting age for school board elections, and San Francisco voters narrowly rejected a similar measure for all local elections. The debate has now spread to other places, with additional cities, states, and even Congress considering the issue. This chapter tells the recent stories of these debates, with insights about the continued effort. A key takeaway is that youths themselves have been the primary advocates for this reform. Successful implementation has required a youth-driven campaign as well as a sustained push for enhanced democratic engagement among the entire electorate, along with dedication to improved civics education. Furthermore, the idea to lower the voting age to 16 has now entered the national conversation, with over 100 members of Congress supporting a measure to lower the voting age for federal elections. Yet political considerations remain a barrier in many places.
Joshua A. Douglas
Chapter 12. Conclusion
Having been able to engage with the case studies that have provided in-depth insights into each of the countries, this chapter brings together the key insights that cut across those individual accounts. Common themes emerge, such as the importance of civic education and other socializing influences, concerns about the interplay between enfranchisement and other political decisions as well as an overall positive image of young people’s engagement. However, the chapter also identifies differences, in particular in relation to the process of how changes to the voting age come about and the extent of youth involvement beyond the vote. Crucially, the authors note that young people need to be considered heterogeneous and complex. Furthermore, they suggest future avenues for research into this topic and particularly stress the need for explicitly comparative research designs.
Jan Eichhorn, Johannes Bergh
Lowering the Voting Age to 16
herausgegeben von
Jan Eichhorn
Johannes Bergh
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