Attack advertising as an agent of British youth political disempowerment? A review of empirical evidence from the 2010 British general election
In this chapter we argue that election attack advertising reinforces an already disenchanted youth by fuelling their cynicism and distrust, as well as reducing their levels of political efficacy. This, in turn, leads them to question why they should vote. Combined, this portrays political disempowerment, whereby youth feel they lack political power and confidence. The consequences of this are potentially very serious, since disempowerment can lead to isolation and alienation, with all the ensuing problems for both the individuals concerned and society more broadly. The evidence to support our argument is based upon Dermody and Hanmer-Lloyd’s empirical study of the 2010 British general election; specifically youth attitudes towards the impact of the 2010 attack advertising on their trust and distrust of politicians and political parties. In order to begin to disentangle the complexity of attack advertising, as an agent of youth political disempowerment, we begin by considering the evidence on youth electoral (dis)engagement and the connections with political trust, distrust and efficacy. We then present an overview of the 2010 British general election advertising campaigns for the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties, and the ‘logic’ and concerns that arise over the use of attack advertising in election campaigning. Having established the context and core arguments that underpin our chapter, we then introduce our survey and present our findings and conclusions pertinent to the theme of this book.