Do governments favour the old and would it be different if young people voted?

[Co-authored with Richard Berry]

It has become a truism in the UK that government policy favours older generations because they vote in much larger numbers than young people. This assumption was central to the recent recommendation made by former cabinet secretary Gus O’Donnell – angered by the blanket provision of the winter fuel allowance and other retirement benefits – to consider introducing compulsory voting. Doing so, he argued, would end “the ludicrous bias whereby the old are subsidised by the young”.

The idea that governments cynically serve older people because they’re more likely to vote surfaces across the political spectrum. A cursory search reveals the idea being repeated by Polly Toynbee and Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian, Brian Groom and Janan Ganesh in the Financial Times, and Tim Wigmore in the Telegraph.

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Image: Chris Beckett