Political Knowledge, Civic Education and Voting at 16
To justify reducing eligibility to vote to age 16 is to show how it serves as a means to enhanced democratic political engagement. Hence the question posed here is under what, if any, circumstances does reducing the voting age enhance political engagement. Political engagement is shorthand for the second, qualitative dimension of electoral participation. The first dimension is that of turnout, a purely quantitative expression. If our concern is limited to this dimension, then we should address making voting compulsory. But, in doing so, we risk bringing to the polls an additional number of less sophisticated voters. This is also the challenge posed to voting at 16 which the data shows, can also raise turnout. This chapter concentrates on the second, qualitative, dimension of political participation, which we can characterize as political engagement, a combination of political interest and knowledge. And here the relationship is far from clear. The conclusion is thus that the first priority must be to promote natural experiments to test, and potentially establish, this relationship.
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