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Event: Voting at 16 - What has to happen next?

Sign up for event on 10 June to discuss new research from Social Policy staff with practitioners and policy makers.

*Read the published report here*
After the positive experience of 16-year olds voting in the referendum the Scottish Parliament is currently handling the bill to reduce the voting age to 16 for elections in Scotland. Support stretches across political parties and we are likely to see this substantial change implemented in time for the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections.
But is that enough? Evidence from other countries with votes at 16, such as Austria, suggest indeed that this can have lasting positive effects on young people’s civic attitudes and political engagement. However, they also show that lowering the vote alone is not enough to sustain these positive outcomes. Instead a strong role is often attributed to schools and civic education.
At this seminar we will present research findings from a unique set of data compiled by a team of Edinburgh University’s School of Social and Political Science (Jan Eichhorn, Daniel Kenealy, Lindsay Paterson and Richard Parry – all Social Policy – and Alexandra Remond – Politics), funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. They conducted a survey in February 2015 following the independence referendum and ahead of the general election that covered all of the UK and asked people about attitudes to politics and constitutional change. Crucially, the survey includes substantial representative samples of 16-17 year olds in Scotland and the rest of the UK respectively (about 400 respondents each). This allows us to perform a natural experiment analysis not only into the political attitudes of this age group, but also to highlight whether there are distinct changes in Scotland that have outlasted the referendum following this first experience of earlier voter enfranchisement.
Key questions addressed are:
  • Are there any differences in the political attitudes and behaviour between young Scottish people and their peers elsewhere in the UK?
  • How can we explain such differences?
  • What role does the family play in shaping young people’s political attitudes?
  • Does political education in school of a real civic pay-off for young people?
  • Should young people actively discuss political issues in the classroom in all schools? Do differences between local authorities in how much political engagement is permitted in schools result in inequalities?
  • What policies do we need to achieve positive civic benefits from votes at 16.
At the event researchers from the team will present findings to answer these questions and contrast those with insights from interviews with political decision makers on the question of early voter enfranchisement. The presentation will be followed by reflections from a roundtable of politicians and experts and there will be extensive space for discussion with all members of the audience about the research and its implications for policies.
Presentations will be made by the following researchers who will then join the panel for discussions:
  • Alexandra Remond, presenting contextual findings on age patterns and political attitudes  
  • Daniel Kenealy, presenting insights from qualitative interviews with elites on the role of the lowering of the voting age
  • Jan Eichhorn, presenting the analyses about influences on 16-17 year olds' political attitudes in Scotland and the rest of the UK
The roundtable will be chaired by Dr Alan Britton, University of Glasgow. The members of the roundtable will be:
  • Liam McArthur, MSP, Liberal Democrats
  • Mark Griffin, MSP, Labour
  • Marco Biagi, MSP, SNP, Minister for Local Government and Community Empowerment
  • Miles Briggs, Conservatives 
  • Nairn McDonald, MSYP, Scottish Youth Parliament
Attendance at the event is free of charge, however, places are limited, so registration is required here
A buffet lunch will be served upon arrival from 12.30pm and the presentation will start at 1pm with proceedings closing at 3pm.
Should you have any questions about the event please contact Dr Jan Eichhorn at
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