Youth Non-Voting and the Promotion of Youth Voting in Northern Ireland: A Bourdieusian Analysis

Farquhar, Dean
(2021) Youth Non-Voting and the Promotion of Youth Voting in Northern Ireland: A Bourdieusian Analysis. Doctor of Philosophy thesis, University of Liverpool.

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This thesis is the first in-depth study of youth non-voting in Northern Ireland. To account for youth non-voting, the thesis contends that it is necessary to think beyond the apathy/engaged scepticism framing of youth political participation prevalent in wider literature. In locating some non-voters in a liminal space between apathy and engaged scepticism, the thesis shows how young electors who are interested in politics broadly understood may not vote because their lack of understanding of electoral politics reduces their confidence in relation to casting a ballot. Additionally, by probing deeper into the nature of engaged scepticism than previous scholarship, the thesis highlights how beliefs around civic duty distinguish some non-voters and voters who are similarly knowledgeable and critical of electoral politics. The thesis also explains how these subtle differences within and between non-voters and voters are socially produced, reflecting variations in the modes of cultural capital inculcated within habitus. Family, schools, and friends are all revealed to be important actors in youth political socialisation. Having explored the reasons for youth non-voting, the thesis then attends to the question of how to strengthen youth turnout. It expands on the popular notion that politicians should listen to young people and incorporate their views into policy platforms in order to attract young electors. Politicians must indeed take youth focused approaches to policy development, but they must also be cognisant of the extent to which their ideological positions relate to the lived experiences of youth. As the thesis explains, there is no unified youth habitus that corresponds to a single electoral narrative. Given the disparate nature of youth wants, needs and desires, there is scope for numerous electoral narratives, whose unequal relevance to young electors in part reflects prevailing social inequalities. Essentially, the thesis affords greater insight into how young people’s views on political matters are constructed and the bearing this has on the types of electoral narratives they are likely to find appealing. Breaking again with much of the existing literature on youth political participation, the latter part of the thesis examines local politicians’ views on youth and their efforts to engage the young with the electoral process. In these passages, the thesis clarifies how although politicians may make considerable effort to reach out to young people, their efforts are constrained by their ideologically informed readings of society, which set parameters on how they are able to alleviate young people’s concerns. Ultimately, the thesis develops our collective understanding of youth non-voting in Northern Ireland and opens up for discussion how youth voting might be better promoted in the region.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy)
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Histories, Languages and Cultures
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 03 Sep 2021 14:36
Last Modified: 01 Sep 2022 07:15
DOI: 10.17638/03118347