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May, 23, 2013

The Student Vote 2013

Every year here we survey our wonderful panelists on your voting habits. We then compare these results to the general population, and we look at how your political views have changed.

Our most recent polling of higher education students finds that whilst wider opinion polls suggest the UK electorate is moving further to the right, there is little evidence to suggest this or the recent surge in support for the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) has been felt across university campuses. This is reflected in your continued and clear preference for Labour, with UKIP ranking only fifth in your choice of parties, and a big majority of you also favouring the UK’s continued EU membership.

Research Highlights

  • The next generation of voters and opinion formers have not embraced euro-scepticism
  • Liberal Democrats support among students is now EVEN LOWER than during the student protests of 2010
  • The Green Party out-polls UKIP by a big margin
  • Labour is the top party for students, outpolling the Tories’ student share by around two to one
  • The general voting population is more than twice as likely to vote UKIP than students and more than twice as likely to want to leave the EU compared to students.

Student party preferences

The Labour Party continues to enjoy the most support among the full time undergraduate student population with almost half (47%) likely to vote Labour were an election to be held tomorrow. The overall general UK electorate also puts Labour in first place, but with a smaller share of support (37%).

The figure for student support for Labour is slightly down from last summer (48%) but this is only a tiny dip indicating the party’s position as your preferred party is fairly stable. Labour is currently 26 percentage points ahead of their nearest rivals, the Conservative Party, who now attract only a fifth of all student voters (21%).

The Liberal Democrats are still struggling to restore their reputation amongst their previously supportive student constituency following the dramatic decline in support for the party in the wake of changes to university tuition fees and funding. From 2004 to the 2010 election the Liberal Democrats consistently polled 10 to 20 percentage points higher among students than among the overall UK voting population. Currently the Liberal Democrats enjoy the support of under one in ten students (8%) – this is even lower than during the student protests of 2010 (15%) and well below the 50% support enjoyed at the 2010 election. It is also just 1 percentage point higher than that of the general public. However, whilst UKIP have recently eclipsed the Liberal Democrats in the electorate at large, for students the Green Party is the current third choice at 13%. Thus whilst there are feelings that public opinion is shifting to the right, students appear to be bucking this trend by putting greater faith in parties of the left.

Party

Student voting intention*

Electorate voting intention[1]

Labour

47%

37%

Conservatives

21%

28%

Liberal Democrats

8%

7%

Green Party

13%

4%

UKIP            

7%

18%

Other       

3%

6%

* Calculated excluding those who stated you would not vote or do not know which party you would vote for (n=719), and base includes only those who state you are very likely to vote (i.e. when asked to rate “How likely would you be to vote in an immediate General Election?” on a 10 point scale where 1 is absolutely certain NOT to vote and 10 is absolutely certain TO vote, you rate your likelihood as being either 8, 9 or 10) (n=537 [weighted]).  All percentages rounded to nearest whole number.

Students and UKIP

The recent local elections were arguably the most successful UKIP has experienced to date and yet you guys do not seem to be part of this phenomenon. Polling finds 45% of students claim they would never consider voting UKIP compared to just 36% percent of the wider electorate, and if an election were to be held tomorrow just 7% of you believe you would put your support behind the party[2]. Moreover, only 4% would consider yourselves to be UKIP supporters in your own politics. Far from being students’ third place party, as is the case for the wider population where electors are also 2.5 times more likely to vote UKIP than students (18%), they come in only fifth place. Asked to rank your likelihood of voting for UKIP in the future from 0 to 10 (from never to definitely), students’ average score was just 2.2 implying few would contemplate giving them your vote at upcoming elections.

Students and the EU

One of UKIP’s main appeals is thought to be its stance on Europe, 59% of UKIP voters stating its commitment to leaving the EU as a principal reason for their vote decision. Students’ lack of support for UKIP however is mirrored in your mostly positive attitude towards Europe. Only a fifth (21%) would vote to exit the EU should a referendum be held tomorrow as opposed to more than double that proportion in the electorate (44%). In contrast, 59% of students are in favour of continuing membership. The same can only be said for 34% of wider voters. As long as students remain committed to staying in the EU, it would seem unlikely that UKIP’s fortunes will change significantly amongst this group.

Students are an increasing group and still some of the most politically active members of the youth population, your likely turnout currently resting at 58%[3], and so you are not a group politicians would be wise to ignore. Reinforcing this view is the consistently higher turnout of graduates, suggestive of students’ long-term significance in electoral politics, and the probability that partisan attachments made during individuals’ first elections will often persist throughout your lifetime. Whilst UKIP have undoubtedly experienced a significant increase in support, this is not true amongst all electoral groups, especially students who remain a key constituency which they are yet to tap. With students’ continued support for Labour and the Green Party and the UK’s membership of the EU however, questions remain as to whether UKIP will be able to make inroads into the student vote to rival the three main parties in the longer term.

Our full list of Student Vote reports / press releases

For our interactive (online) student voting intention chart

[1] All current party polling for wider electorate from TNS BMRB poll 17th May 2013 via UK Polling Report

[2] All voting intention party preferences are calculated excluding those who state they would not vote or do not know which party they would vote for (n=719).

[3] Students voting their likelihood of voting between 8 and 10 inclusive on a scale of 1 (absolutely certain not to vote) and 10 (absolutely certain to vote).

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  1. Antonio Gui�on

    I am Conservative. We need to boost the economy and not go to Labour’s way of borrowing. Although you may feel better off under Labour, this is due to borrowing resulting in a poor economy. Under Conservative, you will feel the cuts in the short term, but in the long term, you will be better off and the economy will be stronger with more jobs and local business.

    Totally agree

  2. Jack Denny

    I am Conservative. We need to boost the economy and not go to Labour’s way of borrowing. Although you may feel better off under Labour, this is due to borrowing resulting in a poor economy. Under Conservative, you will feel the cuts in the short term, but in the long term, you will be better off and the economy will be stronger with more jobs and local business.