Understanding the youth vote
As we move closer to May 2022, eyes are back on the youth as a critical player for this year’s presidential elections. Philippine Statistics Authority data for 2020 show that in a population of 110 million Filipinos, youth ages 15-29 represent 30 percent of the Philippine population, youth ages 30-34 are about eight million, while future voters ages 10-14 total 10 million. For the upcoming elections, majority of the voting population will be composed of the youth. There are 65 million registered voters with 32.7 million between the ages of 18 and 30. Out of this, 5.4 million are voting for the first time.
The interest to engage the youth for voter turnout and for political participation is significant, not only because of the potential of a “youth vote” but because of the role that the youth play in democracy and nation-building. Throughout Philippine history, generations of Filipino youth have been instrumental in critical movements that have changed social and political landscapes.
These figures also show the considerable weight of the youth in determining the outcome of the elections. While the youth don’t vote as a block, the possibility of the youth uniting for one candidate has always been desirable to a candidate. The creativity of the youth and the ability to mobilize through social media and other multimedia platforms also give a significant boost to candidates’ campaigns.
In the presidential election of 2010, exit polls on presidential preference conducted by Pulse Asia show that votes from ages 18-34 represented 36 percent of total votes cast. And of the 36 percent of youth voters, 77 percent voted for Benigno S. Aquino III. In exit polls conducted in 2016 by the Social Weather Stations (SWS), majority of the votes for President Duterte also came from the 18-34 age bracket.
Many candidates boast of platforms that allow for youth voices to be heard but there has to be sustained engagement even beyond the elections. As the youth explore new ways of political engagement, we need to acknowledge youth as functioning citizens and a key partner to nation-building rather than base participation on adult expectations or standards.
In March 2021, Youth Leadership for Democracy, a program aimed to strengthen democratic participation among young Filipinos partnered with the SWS for a nationwide youth survey. Demographic profile of respondents included youth ages 15-30 from all regions of the Philippines. Select cities and vote rich areas were also included. Eighty-one percent of the respondents were from Class D, representing the largest bulk of families in the Philippines.
Results from the survey showed that 62 percent of the respondents will surely vote in the 2022 elections, 75 percent agreed that the coming elections will be clean and safe, and 86 percent said they can make a change in society by voting. Top source for information on electoral candidates were TV news (45 percent), word of mouth (44 percent), and social media (31 percent). The platform that youth accessed the least for information on candidates were candidates’ websites (6 percent).
Most interesting in the survey were the results on the greatest influence in Filipino youth’s decision on whom to vote for in the national and local elections. Results indicate that the endorsement of one’s family (54 percent) had the greatest influence. This is consistent in most areas and socio-demographic groups. Youth also looked to their family as a guide on their stance on political issues (59 percent) and support for government policies and activities (57 percent). This exhibits the youth’s strong family ties and the potential for youth to become influencers within their own families and communities.
This election provides an opportunity to activate, organize, educate, and encourage participation among the youth. The potential of a youth vote to emerge is strong but even stronger is the passion, power, capacity of this generation of youth to lead change and protect democracy.
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Ching Jorge is a youth and education advocate. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org