They're calling it a "youthquake": an unexpected turnout by normally apathetic young voters, causing a surprise election result.

It happened in the UK last week. It happened in the US last year. Could it happen here?

Yes, it absolutely could. It's happened before, it could happen again. But - because young people don't vote any more - someone first needs to figure out what sugar will lure them into the ballot box.

There seem to be two main reasons why the young people decided to vote in the UK and US elections.


The first is already bubbling away here: anger. The second will be what tips our youth into the ballot boxes: a good, old-fashioned election bribe.

Young people in the UK are angry about Brexit.

They see a future where they're no longer allowed to easily live in the rest of Europe. It's the Tories' fault, so young people enrolled and voted against them - 59 per cent of the UK's under 25s voted last week. In 2015's election that number was only 43 per cent.

Young people in the US are angry about being left behind. Home ownership rates are down and tertiary education costs are up. Bernie Sanders sympathised, so they voted for him. Sanders took 2 million youth votes across 21 states in the primaries. Combined, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump only took 1.6 million youth votes.

There are signs that young Kiwis are also getting angry. We're experiencing something of a generation war. Millennials are angry at baby boomers for hogging the country's housing stock, taking the pension at 65, and getting a free education. At this point in time, millennials have none of the above.

But anger by itself won't mobilise youth. What really make the difference are freebies.

There's a theory that young people don't vote because they don't care. That, or they're too distracted by Facebook.

That theory's wrong.


Young people don't vote because they get nothing out of it. Politicians don't offer them anything. For the rest of us, there's always something. Tax cuts for the workers. Working for Families for the parents. Bridges for Northland. The last time young Kiwis got a bribe they turned up.

Helen Clark promised interest-free student loans ahead of the 2005 election and, according to former Labour president Mike Williams, young people started signing on to the electoral roll the very next day. Labour won.

So far, no single political party in New Zealand appears to have figured out what to give our young voters this year.

In the UK, Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party promised free tertiary education. There was also the faint hope a Corbyn Brexit might have allowed people to continue moving across Europe freely. In the US, Sanders promised to cut tertiary education fees.

So far, no single political party in New Zealand appears to have figured out what to give our young voters this year.

Labour has promised three years free tertiary education but that's fallen flat, either because they announced it too long before the campaign proper, or because education already feels free when the cost gathers no interest.

The Greens hope they'll benefit from stacking their list with young faces and diverting their election advertising spend from TV to the social media pages where young Kiwis while away hours.

Gareth Morgan's Opportunities Party is pitching furiously at millennials with promises of marijuana law reform.

Former Labour Party chief of staff Matt McCarten is dedicating himself entirely to finding and winning over the so-called "missing million" who never show up to vote.

Word has it his plans include organising music concerts at universities.

All of this is misguided. Rock shows and wrinkle-free candidates won't persuade the youth to vote. Money will. Freebies. Bribes. Sweeteners.