By contrast, Brits aged 65 and over were the smallest group registering to vote ahead of next month’s election. Just over 100,000 have registered since the election was announced. Since only people who change addresses need to register to vote, a greater share older voters, who are less likely to move from year to year, probably don’t need to re-register. Still, at the margin, the fall in registrations in the run-up to the upcoming election may show some waning interest among older voters.

The so-called “grey vote” is a particularly powerful constituency in the UK. According to a 2011 OECD study, the UK had the largest gap in voter turnout between citizens aged 55 and older versus 35 and younger:

This difference in turnout rate makes older voters an influential voting block (paywall) in British elections. While tuition fees have tripled in the past decade and many young people have been priced out of the housing market, older voters have gained from the policies that have pushed up property prices, on top of generous pension arrangements that ensure their incomes always rise in inflation-adjusted terms. The growth in median disposable income between retired and working people in Britain is a stark reminder of this growing generational divide.

The power of the grey vote was further highlighted this week when May launched her Conservative Party’s pre-election manifesto. As soon as she announced a plan to make elderly people pay more for their social care, the party’s lead over its main rival in the polls, the Labour Party, halved. Within days, May backtracked on the toughest aspects of the policy.

While young people are unlikely to swing the election in which the Conservatives enjoy a seemingly unassailable lead over the rest of the field, closing the turnout gap between the young and old would have more fundamental, far-reaching effects. That is, mainstream political parties may finally find it worth their while to pay more attention to young people’s concerns.

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