The Lesson American Millennials Need To Learn From Brexit
Britain voted to leave the European Union in a historic referendum Thursday that has left the country's young voters frustrated and angry. Although an overwhelming majority of voters aged 18 to 24 wanted Britain to remain in the EU, they were outvoted by older pollgoers who favored a Brexit, or exit from the 28-member bloc. Thursday's vote revealed a deep generational divide among British voters, with the group least interested in breaking from the EU forced to live with the decision the longest. Brexit is an important lesson for U.S. millennials not planning to turn up at the polls come November.
In the wake of Thursday's vote, millennials have appeared to be the most outraged — or at least the most vocally outraged — voter bloc, protesting the referendum results outside British Parliament while also taking to social media to condemn the older generation of baby boomers for limiting the opportunities once available to them. In a survey taken by British pollster YouGov after voting closed Thursday, 75 percent of people aged 18 to 24 and 56 percent of people aged 25 to 49 claimed they voted Remain. As voters' ages increased, however, so too did their support for the Remain campaign. Of people aged 50 to 64, 56 percent voted Leave as did 61 percent of people aged 65 and older.
Although a voter's age is not recorded when they cast a ballot, both the BBC and the Telegraph have reported lower voter turnout was seen in areas with higher populations of younger voters when compared to regions with higher populations of older residents. So while areas like Oxford, Cambridge, and Tower Hamlets, which boast large populations of 18- to 30-year-olds voted almost overwhelmingly to Remain (70.3 percent, 73.8 percent, and 67.5 percent, respectively), the older generation turnout in higher numbers overall to tip the vote in favor of leaving.
Indeed, millennials often don't make it to the polls in numbers as high as older voters. But whether you chalk it up to youthful complacency, heedlessness, apathy or ignorance — it has its consequences. Millennials may be most affected by Britain's decision to leave the EU, and not just because they're set to live longest. Millenials' concerns regarding how the Brexit will affect their wages, retirement, and educational and work opportunities are not unfounded. Following the financial crisis of 2008, it was the youth who took the biggest cut in earnings.
Across the Atlantic, another group of millennials are facing an important vote. With little more than four months left before Americans head to the polls to elect their next president, the general election battle between presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump has come to mirror some of the same divisive, fear-based rhetoric that preceded Britain's EU referendum. American millennials would do well to consider the Brexit referendum a cautionary tale. Failure to show up at the polls can have drastic consequences. It's time to take charge of your own future.