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UEL academic behind new website that demystifies EU referendum for young people

Dr Darren Sharpe part of ESRC-funded project to inform young people about Brexit issues

A new website is setting out to engage young people in the UK EU referendum following a research study which showed that 81 per cent of 12-to-24 year olds feel that they do not know enough about the EU and how it affects their everyday lives.

The study, carried out by Dr Darren Sharpe of the University of East London (UEL), showed that only seven per cent of young people felt they knew ‘a lot’ about the EU, and just 12 per cent felt that the EU impacted on their lives ‘very much’.

To fill the knowledge gap, the new Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)-funded website, ‘Me & EU’, provides young voters with important information to help them make a decision about the key issues in the run-up to the referendum.

Launched by Dr Sharpe and Professor Matt Henn, from Nottingham Trent University (NTU), the easy-to-understand webpage breaks down some of the complexities involved with the referendum, colourfully presenting information on a range of topics, including security; the environment and sustainable energy; income and economic justice; education; travel and transport.

It features videos; blogs; a live stream of tweets; links to relevant research and a questionnaire which aims to capture the voice of young people.  

Dr Sharpe, of UEL’s Institute of Health and Human Development, said: “In the 2015 UK General Election, 43 per cent of young people aged 18 to 24 voted, while in the 2014 Scottish referendum 85 per cent of the eligible voters turned out, which included over 640,000 aged 18-24 and approximately 100,000 16–17-year-olds who had registered to vote but are now barred from the EU referendum.

“This snapshot illustrates the political sophistication and significant role of young voters. In our view, they represent a weighty but somewhat dormant voting bloc.

"Optimistically, the voices of young voters could redefine the future of the UK in Europe as they did in the case of the Scottish referendum. However, if young voters decide to stay at home, not only is UK democracy weakened, but of equal concern is the future of the European project itself.

“Me & EU engages in EU affairs by creating an understanding of how Europe influences their daily lives and by connecting them to other young people interested to talk and share ideas on the referendum.”

The Me & EU project been launched as part of The UK in a Changing Europe initiative, an ESRC-funded project which provides impartial information, insights and analysis about UK-EU relations that stands aside from the politics surrounding the debate.

In addition to the website, UEL will be hosting a public debate on the EU referendum in association with the Institute of Ideas Debating Matters Competition,

This debate will take place from 6.30-9pm on June 16 at University Square Stratford, 1 Salway Road, London E15 1NF.