Poll finds youth vote may carry a punch in Upper House election

Staff Report

Around 60 percent of the nation’s new voters aged 18 and 19 are willing to cast a ballot, NHK found in a recent poll.

Amendments to electoral laws in June enable 18- and 19-year-olds to vote.

NHK surveyed 3,000 of the potential new voters in this summer’s Upper House election to gauge their attitudes toward politics and social issues.

Of the 1,813 youths who responded, 94 percent said they were aware of their new rights and 60 percent said they plan to vote in the Upper House election scheduled for June 19 of this year. This raises expectations of a strong showing by youngsters at the ballot box.

The changes mean there will be an estimated 2.4 million people able to vote for the first time.

According to the internal affairs ministry, voter turnout among people in their 20s hit a record low of 32.58 percent in the Lower House election in December 2014.

Also, 53 percent of the respondents said they were greatly or somewhat concerned about the current social and political climate in Japan. Only 12 percent said they had no interest in such issues.

But nearly half of the respondents who wished to take part in the election had reservations or worries about going to the polls: They cited insufficient knowledge about politics and about what impact their vote might have on society.

The reduction of the minimum voting age from 20 to 18 was the biggest reform of the nation’s electoral laws in 70 years and was aimed at encouraging young people to be more politically active.