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More than three quarters of students are afraid of discussing British politics online for fear of it hampering their future job prospects, a new survey has shown.
Political youth platform Shout Out UK quizzed 6,259 under-18s and found that 78 per cent thought that talking about political viewpoints on social media could potentially hurt their chances of securing a job. Eighty-two per cent said they have had potential employers checking their social media accounts or that they would expect them to do so, and 93 per cent felt they would be judged based on political views on their accounts.
The poll is the latest indication that the polarisation of British politics is leading to an increasing number of people lacking confidence in the fundamental principles of freedom of association, which allows citizens to join any political party they want without fear of retribution. It comes after former RAF officer Beverley Lockwood was fired from a Yorkshire engineering firm simply for joining new political party For Britain headed by Anne Marie Waters.
In the survey, 60 per cent admitted that they had had an argument on social media about politics, and 91 per cent of respondents thought Brexit had turned important political conversations and online debates into “slanging matches” in a nod to the divisiveness of the current climate.
Asked whether they would rather share their political opinions on Facebook or Twitter, 48 per cent opted for Twitter because they could “find more like-minded people”, but 36 per cent said they preferred Facebook because of better security settings and opinions not being so readily in the public domain.
Founder of Shout Out UK, Matteo Bergamini, talking to TES, said it was a worrying indictment of UK politics that so many students feared airing their thoughts online.
“I think it is massively damaging that so many under-18s believe they’d lose a job opportunity based on their political views,” he said.
“While it’s a good idea for young people to be aware of what they write on social media, open political debate should be actively encouraged, particularly in the current climate.
“Young people are often seen as disenfranchised from the political process, and concerns like this are only going to make things worse. It’s vital that under-18s feel they can become engaged in politics at every level, especially when society is in the process of being reshaped thanks to Brexit.”
He added: “I hope that employers would reserve judgement on the political views of potential employees – unless they hold extremist views – and see it as a positive that they could hire someone passionate and actively involved in shaping society.”
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