LOLcats and zombies aren’t typical talking points for politicians, but the unlikely subjects have worked their way into speeches and campaigns as leaders attempt to connect with young voters.
As reported on Wednesday in The Canberra Times the decline in voter turnout particularly amongst young people over the past few decades has been widely acknowledged amongst academics, who have stated youth are now turning to social media and organisations like GetUp to take part in politics.
It’s all to do with engagement, says University of Canberra professor Robin Tennant-Wood.
“I think it’s something that parties are working on,” she said.
“There’s been a lot of talk on how they’re not engaging with younger voters.”
There have been some great examples this year of politicians making strides to meet youth in their natural online environment.
In the United States, the Democrats have jumped on social media trends – a recent meme circulated on the web bears the slogan “stop looking at cats online and go vote”, accompanied by tabby poised over a laptop and the address for Obama’s website.
The politicians themselves have also taken a personal step into the social media world, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton photographed texting with the creators of viral tumbler “Texts from Hillary” while the President was snapped pulling the now famous unimpressed face with Olympic silver medallist McMayla Maroney.
Back in Australia, Prime Minster Julia Gillard recently warned voters of the impending apocalypse and likelihood of “flesh eating zombies” in a spoof clip made in collaboration with youth music station Triple J.
It’s a tactic that’s been labelled savvy by Roslyn Dundas, the youngest person to be elected to the ACT Legislative Assembly when she won a seat in 2001 as a 23-year-old, but she said more needed to be done.
“I actually think there’s a lot of work to be done to engage the whole electorate,” she said.
“A savvy politician will engage with all demographics.”
Ms Dundas also dismissed the claims by academics that younger voters were not enthusiastic about voting, stating it hasn’t been her experience with the political system.
“I’ve found a number of young people very excited to participate in democracy and cast their vote,” she said.
“I don’t think we can cast this stereotype and say all these people who didn’t vote were young… To just stereotype one part of the community is unfair.”