Interview by Clare Cullen
According to data released to Independent.ie by Facebook, Sinn Féin are the political party drawing the most 'engagements' from the 18-24 year-old age bracket.
Engagements include mentions, likes, comments and shares and Sinn Féin take the accolade of 'most-engaged' party on Twitter for that age bracket, followed by Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.
The least-engaged party on Facebook for this age group is the Anti Austerity Alliance.
On Facebook, the issues most engaging those in the 18-24 year old age bracket are Health, the Economy and Infrastructure, however they remain the least-engaged age group on these topics.
Their top three priorities match up with the rest of the population, however, for the 18-25 age bracket Education comes higher than Crime and Corruptio, and Abortion ranks above Flooding.
They are the most engaged age group on the issues of Abortion and Education, despite those falling lower down the list of their priorities.
Most engaging issues for the 18-24 bracket on Facebook
4 Education - most engaged age group on this topic
5 Crime and Corruption
6 Social Welfare
8 Abortion - most engaged age group on this topic
Parties with the highest engagement from the 18-24 bracket on Facebook
1 Sinn Fein
2 Fine Gael
3 Fianna Fail
What is the most important issue to you ahead of #GE16?— Count Us In (@CountUsIn_ie) February 9, 2016
5 Green Party
6 Social Democrats
Which are you more interested in, the Irish General Election or the US Presidential?— Count Us In (@CountUsIn_ie) February 17, 2016
8 People Before Profit Alliance
9 Anti Austerity Alliance
On Twitter, 39 percent of respondents to a @CountUsIn_ie poll voted that the #AECrisis was the biggest issue ahead of #GE16, followed by Water Charges (25 pc) and #RepealThe8th (22pc).
Social media has shown that young people are interested in politics and they derive entertainment from it. Twitter trends like #ElectionMovies show that young people are drawing entertainment from politics and as a result, it's becoming more accessible.
Users of Reddit Ireland, a self-policing community on the wider Reddit site, revolted against a ban on political discussion on the sub-reddit. The ban was then lifted due to the volume of interest in political posts, memes and discussions being allowed on the forum.
As part of the Independent.ie #CountUsIn campaign, young people around the country have been having their say.
We asked the Count Us In community to vote on which emoji best described their relationship with politics, and 46% voted for the 'hear no evil' emoji - a monkey, covering his ears. 27 percent voted for the 'see no evil' monkey, an emoji most commonly used to express embarrassment. 16 percent voted for the 'in love' emoji.
The Count Us In community were also polled on the winners of the TV3 and RTE One 'Leader's debates'. Michael Martin was voted the winner of the TV3 debate, while 46 percent voted debate moderator Claire Byrne the winner of the second televised debate. Both debates became the biggest TV events on Twitter since the Late Late Toy Show last November, with RTE's offering drawing almost double the engagement of the first.
Count Us In has spoken to a number of young candidates running for election on the reasons they chose to participate and put their names forward. Declan Burke, 22, said he finds his age "more of an advantage than a disadvantage" and Green Party candidate Lorna Bogue says that as chair of the Young Greens, she saw that the party put in place a policy on repealing the eighth amendement.
From pounding the pavement, it seems that while the majority of young people are interested in a wide variety of issues, they develop this interest primarily in issues that directly affect them. One young mother in Cork told Count Us In that she is being forced to choose between keeping a roof over her child's head or continuing her own education. She told the campaign that she'll be using her vote to elect someone who has policies to better the system that has failed her.
A number of young people spoke on national issues, borne from a local perspective. Daire, 18, told Count Us In that the environment was a pressing issue for him due to local sewerage issues in his home area of Skerries, Co. Dublin.
Many of the young people who spoke to Independent.ie expressed the concern that they weren't being "listened to" by politicans. One student of NUIG referred to the current Dáil as "majority male, pale and stale", when discussing if students feel represented by the diversity of their Government. A round-table discussion with youth members of Irish Youth Work Galway revealed that politicians are canvassing homes and asking for the parents of people who are legal voting age in this country, resulting in a feeling of resentment towards politicians that they feel don't want or care about their vote.
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