Highlights from our latest research on young voters.
- Despite concerns about levels of young voter registration after the Individual Voter System was introduced, registration amongst students currently stands at 78%
- Fifty six percent of registered students will vote in their home constituency, rather than in their university town. For a further 13%, their university constituency is their home constituency.
- Since December, the Green Party have consolidated their position in second place amongst students, whilst Labour, although still leading, have seen a fall in their share
- Students, whilst rather disillusioned with politics, are still engaged in the political process
In YouthSight’s latest poll of full time undergraduate students, 78% reported that they are currently registered to vote, while 22% either did not know if they were registered or were definitely not registered. Given the recent concerns about the impact of the new Individual Voter Registration system this paints a relatively positive picture of student engagement and may be an outcome of effective campaigning by the Electoral Commission and associated organisations (e.g. ‘National Voter Registration Day’ and ‘Bite the Ballot’.) It is likely that the main outcome of the Individual Voter Registration for students is an increased proportion becoming registered to vote in their home constituency, rather than their university town.
Our research finds that 56% percent of registered students have chosen to do so in their home town (where their home town is not their university town) compared to the 40% of students who will be casting their vote in their university town (this is comprised of 13% where the university town is the same as the home town and 27% where they have they have just chosen to vote in their university town). This means that student registrations may become slightly more dissipated than in previous elections. However, in locations with large student populations, the student vote is still likely to make an important impression. For example, extrapolating the proportion of likely student voters to an electorally sensitive town like Sheffield, it is probable that more than 10,000 students from Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam universities will be registered to vote in the town they study in. Given the likely close battle in Nick Clegg’s Sheffield Hallam constituency, their vote could make a big difference to the outcome here and other marginal seats such as North Warwickshire (Warwick University), Cardiff North (Cardiff University and Cardiff Met) and Norwich South (University of East Anglia).
In our last wave of polling in December 2014, we saw the Green Party become the second most popular party amongst students. This latest February 2015 wave sees the Greens consolidating their position by increasing their share to 28% of the student vote. Labour continue to be the most popular student party with a 33% share while the Conservatives remain in 3rd position with 23%. The Liberal Democrats return to 4th place with just 7%, as support for UKIP amongst students falls to 2%, placing them behind the SNP on 4%.
The increase in support for the Green Party correlates with a decline in support for the Labour Party over the same period. 18 months ago we saw Labour polling at 48% amongst students, and the Green Party at 10%. Since then, Labour has lost 15 points, and the Greens have gained 18.
Students are more likely to vote than other young people. Our research estimated student turnout to be 71% at the last general election compared to just 44% for the overall population aged 18-24 (with a 65% national turnout). Our latest research found that 66% of students are strongly likely to vote and only 9% are strongly unlikely to do so. Perhaps unsurprisingly, those who were least likely to vote were also most likely to be unregistered. This suggests that while the new Individual Voter Registration may unintentionally disenfranchise some students, it may have the most impact those who were already unlikely to exercise their right to vote.
Eleven percent of students are not currently registered to vote and do not plan to register in time for the May 2015 General Election. ‘Not knowing enough about politics’, ‘not knowing who to vote for’, and ‘not being political’ were the most popular reasons given. This suggests those who choose not to register are doing so out of a sense of detachment from politics and a feeling of being ill-equipped to participate rather than abstaining as a matter of principle.
Over half of the students in our sample think that politicians in general do not care about the needs and concerns of young people in the UK, whilst only 7% think that they care ‘a lot.’ The Green Party and the Labour Party are seen to be slightly more interested in young people, whilst UKIP and the Conservative Party are recognized as caring the least about youth issues.
Students continue to buck the wider trend of young people withdrawing from politics, but there is a strong feeling of disillusionment amongst them. 87% of students feel that politicians do not have their best interests at heart, 76% do not trust politicians and 58% do not believe in the current UK political system.
YouthSight will continue to track student voting intentions and opinions up to and beyond the election. If you’re interested in our student polling – or youth research in general - please contact us (see below).
 “Based on the following assumptions, Sheffield Hallam and Sheffield Universities have approximately 33000 full time undergraduate students. We estimate 78% of the student population are registered. Of these, 40% say they will vote in their university constituency or their non term-time home is in the same constituency as their home . This calculation does not take intention to vote into account, just registration. Please note there are far more students in Sheffield than just full time undergraduates in the town’s two main HEIs. Postgraduates, part time students, FE students and returning students will all also make an impact. Also please note, our research relates to the whole town of Sheffield, not individual constituencies, although it is well known that many university students live in the Sheffield Hallam constituency.
About this research
Fieldwork for this, our latest wave of our Student Vote research, was conducted between 6th–8th February 2014. To date YouthSight has completed 99 waves of fieldwork on the Student Vote since July 2004. The sample size for this wave was 994. The sample size for every wave (every student omnibus survey) is between 1,000-1,100 respondents. Only full-time undergraduates at publicly funded UK and Higher Education institutions were included in this wave (and each wave) of our student vote research. Nested quotas are used to achieve a sample that is representative of the UK full time undergraduate population by gender, course year (1, 2, 3+) and university type (Russell group, pre 1992 universities, post 1992 universities and specialist institutions). Targets for the quotas and weights are acquired using population data supplied by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). The respondents questioned in the fieldwork for each wave are members of The Student Panel. Respondents have verified their academic email address (ending ‘ac.uk’).
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Sarah Newton, Research Manager, YouthSight, 020 7288 8789 email@example.com
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