National / Politics

Teen voter turnout at 31% in Upper House election, down 14 points from 2016

JIJI, Kyodo

Teenage voters’ turnout for Sunday’s House of Councilors election came to 31.33 percent for local constituency races, the internal affairs ministry said in a preliminary report Tuesday.

The figure is 17.47 percentage points lower than the overall turnout of 48.80 percent and represented a 14.12-point fall from the previous Upper House election in 2016 — the first national election after the minimum voting age was lowered from 20 to 18.

The preliminary survey, which covered 188 of 47,044 voting districts across Japan, found that 3,733 out of 11,914 voters age 18 and 19 voted in the election.

Ballots were cast by 34.68 percent of 18-year-olds and 28.05 percent of 19-year-olds. Turnout was higher for women than men in both age groups.

While some young people say it’s important to vote, others said they had no interest in politics and that the issues highlighted during the campaign were not pertinent to their lives.

“I voted based on which candidates and parties had the best policies to boost employment for young people,” said an 18-year-old male high school student from Tokyo. The student read the campaign pledges and policies of each party in newspapers and online to decide which party or candidate to vote for. “Democracy is something every one of us strives together to realize,” he said. “I’m willing to continue voting in the future.”

Meanwhile, an 18-year-old female high school student who participated in early voting in the city of Gifu commented that she found politicians’ statements and choice of words difficult. “This time I went to vote because my parents told me to, but since I never really developed a real interest in it, I wouldn’t go again,” she said.

Sunday’s election was the third national election to be held since the voting age was lowered to 18 years old under the Public Offices Election Act, which was revised in June 2016. The voting rate seen for youths has been dropping since that time.

However, a survey conducted by the internal affairs ministry after the July 2016 Upper House election targeting those aged from 18 to 20 years old showed that among those who voted, the percentage who had as children accompanied their parents when they voted was 20 points higher than that of those who had not.

Taking that trend into account, some municipalities have implemented measures that encourage parents to take their children with them when they go to vote.

Starting from the mayoral election last year, Gifu’s election commission now provides an illustrated certificate for children who visit polling stations. The council used to give certificates only to the people who voted.

“To encourage future political participation, it is important to offer children opportunities to become familiar with elections and politics,” said an official of the Gifu city government.