by Rebecca Weinberg
Ahead of the general election this Thursday, the UK’s political parties have been utilising social media in a frenzied attempt to appeal to young voters. Between the election being called, and the deadline to register, two-thirds of the 3 million newly registered voters were under the age of 35.
Are the party-generated memes, at least in part, responsible for this huge spike in young voters? Are the memes even good?
UWS News asked young people to rate official memes from three major UK political parties, in a bid to find out if these memes are strengthening party campaigns, or simply alienating young voters.
First up is the Labour party’s recent attempt at humour, with this Jimmy Kimmel-inspired “mean tweets” video.
Did Jeremy Corbyn’s fireside reading warm up young voters to the potential PM, or leave them feeling cold?
“I really enjoyed the video,” says Eilidh Swinton, a 23-year old MSc Publishing student from Moodiesburn. The Labour voter elaborates: “It was creative and very funny. I’m a Labour girl anyway, but it’s made me like Jeremy Corbyn more. The video gave me a bit more insight into his character in comparison to what we see on the likes of the BBC or STV. However, I can see people believing that he’s trying too hard to relate to young people.” Eilidh rates this meme 7.5/10, stating that the final joke increases her rating.
Next, is the Conservatives’ “lo fi boriswave beats to relax/get brexit done to” compilation.
Taking inspiration from popular YouTube “lo-fi beats to relax and study to” videos, this meme definitely took the public by surprise, judging by the reaction on Twitter. The reaction of our young voters seems to be one of incredulity, also.
“I first came across this this meme early in the morning, and whilst looking at it I started to wonder if I was still asleep,” opines Joe James, a 21-year old Glaswegian student and undecided voter. “It’s an extremely bizarre move from the Conservative Party, and one that is unlikely to influence too many into their ways. Not for the first time, the Conservatives look completely out of touch with voters and young people in particular.” Joe gives this meme a weak 4/10 rating.
“The music is relaxing,” says 27-year old lorry driver Sean Lawless, from Inverness. The Conservative voter continued: “But it misses the point of a meme and doesn’t give me any amusement or information. It hasn’t changed my opinion on the vote, though I’m finding Boris’ voice very reassuring with this track playing – I didn’t expect that!” Sean also rates Boris’ beats 4/10.
Our final contender is the Liberal Democrats’ rather obscure meme, wherein MP Sam Gyimah implies that Melania is endorsing the Lib Dems by wearing yellow.
The meme draws upon the idea that the First Lady of the US has been sending secret messages through her clothing choices. This conspiracy has recently been more popularised by the unauthorised biography “Free, Melania”, written by CNN White House reporter Kate Bennett.
Do the UK’s young voters understand the intention behind this Tweet?
“I don’t get it,” says Tracey Matheson, a 22-year old customer service representative and Labour voter, from Glasgow. “Why would you want Melania Trump endorsing you, whether or not she is sending coded cries for help? It seems like a ham-fisted attempt to appeal to young people, without thinking of what it means. I think worse of [the Lib Dems] now.” Tracey gives this meme a paltry 3/10.
“It appears counterproductive in its message,” states Kieron Swiecicki, a 23-year old London-based receptionist. “The wife of Donald Trump is hardly an icon for the left-wing to follow. This has only increased my weariness with the centrist party.” Kieron, a Labour voter, rates this meme 1/10.
The young voters we spoke to seem to be cautious when consuming political memes, with many of them feeling the UK parties have missed the mark when it comes to humour. Labour’s “mean tweets” video received the best reception, while the Lib Dem’s coded message remained encrypted. The memes, though mildly influential, did not change anyone’s core political stance.