U.K. Millennial Vote Sign-Ups Beat Brexit in Labour Boost

  • More under-34 registrations than before Brexit, 2015 election
  • Theresa May’s Conservatives still lead polls for June 8 vote

Why the U.K. is Heading to the Polls… Again

More U.K. millennials tried to register to vote ahead of the June general election than before last year’s Brexit referendum, a boost to Jeremy Corbyn’s opposition Labour Party.

About 2 million people 34 or under attempted to sign up in the five weeks before the May 22 registration deadline, up 20 percent on the comparable period before the Brexit vote, according to U.K. government data.

The surge stands to benefit Jeremy Corbyn’s opposition Labour Party, with the latest YouGov Plc survey showing about a 20 percentage-point lead for his party among this age group over Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives. May’s party retains a lead of about 10 points nationally, boosted by their support among older voters who are more likely to turn out on June 8.

Corbyn’s populist campaigning style -- focused on mass rallies and building a grassroots movement -- plus a desire among younger people to shape the path of Brexit are likely to be behind the surge, Matt Henn, professor of social research at Nottingham Trent University, said in a phone interview.

“This is a last chance for young people to have some influence over their futures and their relationship with Europe,” Henn said. “Whether their voice will be heard is another matter.”

Companies including Uber Technologies Inc., Starbucks Corp. and Twitter Inc. ran initiatives in the run-up to the voter deadline to encourage millennials to register. Snap Inc. prompted registrations through its popular image-sharing app Snapchat, while a message on Instagram reached 10.8 million U.K. users.

Celebrity Endorsements

Corbyn has also benefited from a string of celebrity endorsements from the likes of grime music artists Stormzy and Jme, who have a combined Twitter following of about 1.5 million.

A strong turnout for Corbyn may bolster his claim to retain the Labour leadership even if he loses the election, presenting a blow to those on the moderate wing of the party who have sought to oust him.

The number of attempted registrations among under-34s in the five weeks prior to the deadline is also up 31 percent on the 2015 general election, when 1.5 million tried to sign up.

“The numbers coming forward to vote is amazing,” said Michael Sani, co-founder of youth charity Bite the Ballot, which helped coordinate some of the engagement initiatives. “Results of elections recently have shown young people they can’t just write politics off.”

— With assistance by Siraj Datoo

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