In hopes of turning around youth’s political apathy 若者の政治意識向上を期待して

Relationship between lowering voting age and SNS ―選挙権18歳への引き下げとSNS―

This image is from Flickr, Eshi.

Japan's Public Offices Election Law was revised in June 2015 to lower the legal voting age to 18 from 21 before. As the amended law came into force on June 19, the country's 18-year-olds will be casting their ballots for the first time in the House of Councillors election scheduled for July 10.



The lowered voting age is aimed to encourage the youth to pay more attention to politics and get involved in it more actively amid Japan's declining birth rate coupled with an aging and dwindling population. The voter turnout by age in the last House of Representatives general election in December 2014 was way lower at 32.6% for those in their 20s in comparison to 68.3% for those in their 60s and 42.1% for those in their 30s. This clearly indicates political apathy among younger generations. A lower turnout among young voters will make their voices harder to reach legislators, who in turn may have difficulties adopting policies for them or at best take longer to formulate policies favored by them.



Voting age of 18 is global trend


The Ministry of Internal Affairs & Communications (MIC) is highly touting the change in the suffrage with a catchword "Your votes can determine your future!" on its official website. It has produced posters and TV commercials featuring up-and-coming actress Suzu Hirose as a mascot to support its campaign. MIC has also engaged Yoshimoto Kogyo Co., an Osaka-based entertainment conglomerate, to produce a video footage, in which its idol girl group performs comical dances while answering various election-related questions such as why the voting age was lowered and how low the turnout of youths in the past along with cases in some foreign countries.



The voting age of 18 years is widespread in most other countries. Notable here is that election campaigns via social network service (SNS) like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are becoming a common practice in the United States and many other countries, making voters including the youth more interested in politics. SNS facilitates communications between candidates and voters, making it easier for the latter's opinions to be reflected on policies.


 海外での選挙権年齢は18歳以上が主流になっているが、注目されるのはTwitter, Facebook, YouTubeなどのSNS(ソーシャル・ネットワーク・システム)を利用した選挙運動が米国など多くの国で一般化しており、それが若者を含めた有権者の政治的関心を高めるのに役立っていることだ。SNS利用により候補者と有権者とのやり取りが円滑に進み、有権者の意見が政策により反映されやすくなっている。

SNS has its own problems


In keeping with the changing situation in other countries, Japan removed the ban on Internet election campaign by partially amending the Public Offices Election Law in April 2013 prior to the lowering of the voting age. The revised law allows all adults including 18-year-olds to take part in election campaigns through websites except email. What we have to be careful about SNS use is mental abuse and spoofing for the purpose of disrupting candidates. Both are subject to criminal penalties. Such behaviors are apt to stem from anonymity inherent in SNS and how better to deal with them is one of big problems to be addressed in the future.

こうした海外での選挙事情を反映して、日本でも18歳選挙権実現に先立つ2013年4月、「インターネット選挙活動解禁に係る公職選挙法の一部を改正する法律」が成立した。これによると、満18歳になった者を含めだれでもウェブサイト(電子メールは除く)を利用して選挙運動ができるようになった。SNS利用に当たって注意しなければならないのは、誹謗中傷と当選させないことを目的に他人になりすまして活動する「なりすまし」行為である。いずれも刑罰の対象となる。これらはSNSの持つ匿名性から生じるものであり、どう解決していくかが今後の課題となろう。(Written by: Toshihiro Horibe, Hiroki Sajo and Ayane Hujiki)(和文:堀部聡宏 英文:嵯城弘樹、藤城彩音)