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Page last updated at 12:37 GMT, Saturday, 17 April 2010 13:37 UK

Young voters want 'straight talking' politicians

by Dermot O'Leary

crowds at the Notting Hill carnival
About four million young people have become eligible to vote since 2005

Millions of young voters could hold the keys to Downing Street and help decide the outcome of the election in a few weeks' time.

But the fact is that more votes were cast in the X Factor final than the most popular party received in the 2005 General Election.

The Electoral Commission says that 56% of 17 to 24-year-olds may not be registered to vote and fewer than 40% of 18-24 year olds eligible to vote did so in either the 2005 or 2001 elections.

They're not pretty numbers.

But beyond what some see as the patronising slogans and awkward electioneering, politicians are genuinely desperate to engage with this four million-strong group of new voters.

"Young people" don't want to be patronised... They just want some straight talking

And it makes sense - so many surveys have pointed to the conclusion that people will mainly stick with who they vote for the first time.

So how can the political parties hope to reach the ever-elusive demographic of "the young"?

What's obvious is that these "young people" don't want to be patronised, they don't want to be pigeon-holed or spoken down to. They are better informed with far more information at their fingertips than the generation that went before them.

They just want some straight talking.

Dermot O'Leary
Interviews with leading politicians
First Time Voters' Question Time

And you can bet that the decisions first-time voters make will be predominately on policy, trust and ideology - not who can use a smart phone, is the best dressed, the most attractive or who can name the coolest band.

To my mind, it's important that they engage on the points relevant to teenagers and 20-somethings - not just what they're doing about them but why.

Why have you chosen this policy? Who have you talked to? Will a new work incentive scheme really engage the portion of the electorate you think it will?

If young people really are to get politics, then politics must really understand young people.

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