Lowering the Voting Age to 16 in Practice: Processes and Outcomes Compared
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Research into the possible consequences of lowering the voting age to 16 used to be rather speculative in nature, as there were few countries that had implemented earlier enfranchisement. This has changed over the past decade. We now have a range of countries in different locations, mostly in Europe and South America, where 16- and 17-year-olds can vote in some or all elections. In many of those places empirical research has given us insights into the experiences of young people and the impact of those changes on political discussions. However, so far these studies have largely been conducted individually in each country, which makes comparisons difficult. This article summarises the key insights from empirical research across countries with lower voting ages. It identifies common patterns, but also highlights differences. Overall, the impact appears to not be negative and often positive in terms of political engagement and civic attitudes. However, the comprehensiveness of effects varies. The article offers some possible frameworks to understand differences, in particular by reflecting on the processes that led to voting franchise changes, but also indicates where gaps in knowledge remain, and what sort of research would be required to produce systematically comparable results.