Educational outcomes of political participation? Young first-time voters 3 years after the Scottish Independence Referendum

Breeze, Maddie and Gorringe, Hugo and Jamieson, Lynn and Rosie, Michael (2021) Educational outcomes of political participation? Young first-time voters 3 years after the Scottish Independence Referendum. Journal of Youth Studies. ISSN 1367-6261

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    Abstract

    After the enfranchisement of 16- and 17-year olds in the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum, much research continued to prioritise questions of how education influences young people's political engagement. By contrast, this paper advances an original focus on educational outcomes of youth political participation and investigates how political engagement might have educational consequences. Shortly after the referendum, we interviewed a strategic sample of first-time voters aged 16–20, who had voted ‘yes’ to Scottish independence. We re-interviewed a sub-sample 3 years on, facilitating longitudinal analysis and novel qualitative data. Our analysis demonstrates how, from the perspective of remarkably engaged participants, referendum engagement has three kinds of educational consequences. First, participants describe learning about politics through referendum participation and their subsequent reflection on it. Second, participants understood their political engagements as informing their trajectories into and through post-compulsory education, including subject choices. Third, participants discussed learning about themselves and their career aspirations, ‘growing up’ and developing ‘mature’ political attitudes, via ongoing, shifting political engagement. This article contributes significant new insights about youth political engagement and lowering the voting age, by showing how young people understand their political participation as influencing their formal educational pathways and informal learning, about politics and themselves.