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Liberal Democrats dumped by the student electorate after a whirlwind romance


Photo by Smart7

Tags: Voting

Ben Marks
Ben Marks

Ben is YouthSight's founder and CEO. He's a well-renowned personality in the market research industry and has great connections with the MRS and HEPI.

Photo by Smart7

Summary

- At the beginning of the election campaign, prior to the leadership debates, student support was split between the three main parties. 27% intended to vote Lib Dem, compared with 30% Conservative and 32% Labour.  (Fieldwork dates: 25 February - 4 March 2010)

- After the second of the three leadership debates, 50% of students intended to vote for the Lib Dems. This growth was at the expense of both Labour and Conservatives, whose support dropped to 20% and 21% respectively.  (Fieldwork dates: 26-28 April 2010)

- Nick Clegg’s performance in the leadership debates also influenced students who were previously unsure who they would vote for, to support the Lib Dems.  (Fieldwork dates: 26-28 April 2010)

- 48% of students voted for the Lib Dems on Election Day, compared to 22% voting for each of the other two main parties. (Fieldwork dates: 7 -10 May 2010)

- Since the General Election, support for the Lib Dems amongst students has decreased to pre-election levels. By September 2010, 29% said that they would vote for the Lib Dems if there were an immediate General Election. (Fieldwork dates: 8-15 September 2010)

- Around the time of the first student protest against tuition fees in November 2010, Lib Dem support dropped further to 15% amongst the student population. (Fieldwork dates: 18-23 November 2010)

- Much of the drop in support for the Lib Dems has been picked up by Labour. 43% said that they would vote labour if there were an immediate General Election. (Fieldwork dates: 18-23 November 2010)

Details

OpinionPanel keeps abreast of the issues affecting the student population. We have measured one of the quickest love affairs in recent political history. In April 2010, OpinionPanel highlighted how Nick Clegg, his election campaign and his performance in the leadership debates had wooed the student vote. It now looks like the student love affair with Clegg and the Lib Dems may be irreparably damaged.

Traditionally, student support for the Liberal Democrats has been higher than among the general population. In the weeks leading up to the General Election earlier in 2010, support for the Lib Dems increased significantly among the student population and this was reflected in actual voting behavior on polling day. Just over a quarter (27%) of students who were likely to vote supported the Lib Dems at the end of March, prior to the televised leadership debates, however, by the end of April (after the second leadership debate) half of all students (50%) who were likely to vote, intended to support the Lib Dems. The televised debates had a significant impact on voting intention, with two thirds (63%) of all students who were likely to vote and who had seen at least some of the debates saying that the debates had helped them to decide who to vote for. Overall, around one in ten students switched allegiance to Nick Clegg, at the expense of both David Cameron and Gordon Brown during this period. Importantly, this increase in support did not vaporize on polling day itself. Almost half (48%) of all students reported voting for the Lib Dems (note that just one in five (22%) of the student population voted for either the of the other two main parties, the Conservatives or Labour).

Student party preference, November 2009 – November 2010

Chart Source: OpinionPanel Omnibus. Base – all waves, n=1000, all those intending to vote excluding ‘don’t knows’.

Since the General Election in May 2010, the political landscape across university campuses has begun to change. OpinionPanel has measured a sharp decline in the proportion of students who would now vote Lib Dems if there were an immediate General Election. Their support had dropped to 29% by September and October among all students following on from the formation of the coalition government. However, by November 2010 , support dropped significantly again, with only one in seven stating that they would vote Lib Dem (15%). Much of the drop in Lib Dem support has been picked up by Labour.

Current students in higher education are perturbed by the likely levels of debt that future generations of students will have to live with. Four in five (81%) broadly oppose the Government’s proposed changes in the funding of Higher Education (rising to 92% among those who voted for Labour in the May General Election). Nearly all students (85%) are concerned that the rise in tuition fees will result in an education system that will become the preserve of people from a wealthy background.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, students currently feel disappointed and betrayed by Nick Clegg with nearly three quarters (73%) of all university students claiming to feel let down by his decision to support a rise in tuition fees despite his pre-election pledge to oppose any potential rise – rising to four in five (83%) of those who voted Lib Dem during the General Election and nine in ten (90%) among those who voted for the Labour Party. Asked how they feel about the Lib Dems, only one in ten (9%) of all students said they felt any sympathy for the party over claims it did not realise how dire the financial situation was before forming the coalition Government.

Methodology for November Student Omnibus:

Sample size: 1002 unweighted (1000 weighted).

Sample profile: Students from 139 universities took part.

Quotas: Quotas were set to reflect the UK student population in terms of university type (Russell Group, other Old universities, New universities, other HEIs), year group (1, 2, 3+) and gender. Targets for the quotas were acquired using data supplied by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA)

Incentives: All completers received £1 in Amazon vouchers.

Schedule: Fieldwork 18th – 23rd November 2010

Weighting: Weights are used to ensure the sample is representative by gender, year group (1st year, 2nd year, 3rd year+) and university type (Russell group, pre 1992 universities, post 1992 universities, other specialist institutions).

General methodology for all other waves of the Student Omnibus:

Each wave of the Student omnibus has a sample size of 1,000+ and achieves responses from full-time undergraduate students at around 130 HEIs. Quotas are set to reflect the UK student population in terms of university type (Russell Group, other Old universities, New universities, other HEIs), year group (1, 2, 3+) and gender. Targets for the quotas were acquired using data supplied by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). Weights are also used to ensure the sample is representative by gender, year group (1st year, 2nd year, 3rd year+) and university type (Russell group, pre 1992 universities, post 1992 universities, other specialist institutions). All completers received £1 in Amazon vouchers.

Download the full OpinionPanel tables.

Voting November 2010 - Tables OMS070 - 01031210x