YouthSight has been tracking the Student Vote since 2004. Our latest wave of research (Wave 141) was conducted 16th to 19th August 2019 for the Times Higher Education. It shows some dramatic changes:
- In terms of turnout, students are likely to go to the polls than at any time in the last 15 years. Around 80% are likely to turn out to vote in an immediate General Election (scored 8, 9 or 10 in a 1 to 10 scale on intention to vote.) This is up from a more typical average of 64% seen since 2005.
- Labour takes the highest share of the student vote. Among those eligible and likely to vote, around 38% of students would vote for Labour. Around 19% would vote Liberal Democrat, 18% Green Party, 12% Conservative, 3% SNP and 4% Brexit Party. No other party achieved over 1% of vote share.
- Labour’s vote share is the lowest we have recorded since April 2015. Labour’s popularity has been in continual decline since their high watermark in February 2018 when they enjoyed more than a 70% share of the student vote.
- The last two waves of our voting series have seen the Conservative Party’s performance at an all-time low, with a lower vote share than the Liberal Democrats for the first time since November 2010.
- The Liberal Democrat vote share collapsed after the student loans debacle in 2010 but now looks like it’s beginning to recover amongst students. The party has been stuck at around 5% or 6% of the student vote for the best part of a decade, since early 2011. The last two waves have seen their vote share approximately double from this long-term average. However, from 2004 to 2010 the Liberal Democrat vote share was considerably higher, at around 30% of the student vote, while Labour, who were then in power, had a far lower vote share.
- All leaders are held in low esteem by students. Jeremy Corbyn has the highest score (+2%) but the last 18 months has seen his favourability ratings fall continually, from a remarkably high score of +35% in February 2018 to its current level, near zero.
- Jo Swinson is doing better on this measure than her two predecessors, Vince Cable and Tim Farron. Her rating of -6% is the highest rating for any Liberal Democrat leader since Nick Clegg in 2010.
- As Conservative leader, Boris Johnson has an even lower favourability score than his predecessor, Theresa May. The new Prime Minister has a net favourability score of -55% among students, by far the lowest leader rating of any party since our favourability time-series began in 2010.
YouthSight has been tracking the student vote in the UK since 2004. In that time, we have run 141 waves of polling. Each wave of fieldwork is run using YouthSight’s Student Omnibus survey. The sample for the Student Omnibus is based on a representative sample of full-time undergraduate students at UK universities. Quotas are set for course year (1,2,3+), gender and university type (Russell Group, pre 1992 universities, post 1992 universities and specialist institutions). Targets for the quotas are acquired using the latest data supplied by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). Weights are also occasionally used to ensure the sample is fully representative. A sample size of approximately 1000 students is used in each wave. All respondents taking part in the voting questions are eligible to vote in UK elections. For the Brexit questions, eligibility status is made clear in the tables. All participants are members of YouthSight’s 150,000-strong online research panel. All completers received around £1 to £2 in shopping voucher credits.
When reporting likely turnout, we consider only those we regard as having a high likelihood to vote. We base this on the question, “How likely would you be to vote in an immediate General Election?”, answers to which are given on a 10-point scale from “1 - absolutely certain NOT to vote” to “10 - absolutely certain TO vote”. We assume those scoring 8, 9 or 10 on this scale will turn-out to vote and use this as the base of our turnout estimate and as a filter for our party preference question.
The party preference question is based on responses to the question “How would you vote if there were a General Election tomorrow?”. Only the responses of those eligible to vote, who are likely to turn-out (score 8, 9, 10 on the turnout question) are considered. For this question and this question alone, we remove all “Don’t know” responses from the base. Most mainstream parties are offered as a choice to select from (Labour, Liberal Democrats, Conservative, SNP, Plaid Cymru, Green Party, UKIP, Sinn Fein, DUP, SDLP, Ulster Unionist Party, Brexit Party, Change UK (The Independent Group) and "Another party".
We measure leader favourability by asking respondents to rate each leader of the three main national parties (Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat) on a scale of 0 to 10. The question asked is, “Using a scale that runs from 0 to 10, where 0 means strongly dislike and 10 means strongly like, how to you feel about [insert name of current party leader]? We subtract the percentage who rated 0 to 3 from the percentage who rated 7 to 10 to obtain a net favourability score.
We would like to thank the Higher Education Policy Institute, Open Britain and Times Higher Education for their contributions in developing our questions, especially our Brexit questions, over the last few years.
YouthSight was established in 2004. We are an independent specialist market research agency, focused on 16-30s. Our culturally minded and commercially driven researchers steer brands and universities to fully maximise their relationship with Gen Z and Millennials. Our panel & data services division provides agencies with access to our 150,000-strong panel of 16-30s and comprehensive research data services.