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The Student Vote 2013

YouthSight’s 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...

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.

YouthSight’s 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 students’ continued and clear preference for Labour, with UKIP ranking only fifth in their choice of parties, and a big majority 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.

Click here to view our interactive student voting intentions graph

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%)[1] but this is only a tiny dip indicating the party’s position as students’ 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[2]. 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.

Student/national party preference May 2013


Student party preference*

Electorate voting intention[3]







Liberal Democrats



Green Party









* Calculated excluding those who state they would not vote or do not know which party they would vote for (n=719), and base includes only those who state they 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, they rate their 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 students 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[4], and if an election were to be held tomorrow just 7% of students believe they would put their support behind the party[5]. Moreover, only 4% would consider themselves to be UKIP supporters in their 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 their 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 their 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[6]. Students’ lack of support for UKIP however is mirrored in their 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, their likely turnout currently resting at 58%[7], and so they 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 their 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.

By Charlotte Snelling



Ben Marks, Managing Director, YouthSight, 020 7288 8789


About YouthSight

YouthSight is a full service market research company specialising in youth, student and young professional research.  We have been surveying the student population since July 2004 to measure

students’ political attitudes and voting intentions. A total of over 86 polling surveys have been conducted, each one gathering representative data from between approximately 1,000 and 1,100 full-time undergraduate students in the UK. Each survey includes quotas to ensure representativeness by course year, gender and university type (Russell Group, other Old universities, Post 1992 universities and specialist institutions). This short press release builds upon previous analysis published in 2012, 2010 and 2008.

Our full list of Student Vote reports / press releases -

For our interactive (online) student voting intention chart


About the author

Charlotte Snelling has been working with YouthSight on analysing the Student Vote data since June 2012.  She is an ESRC-funded postgraduate research student at the University of Edinburgh in the second year of her PhD. Her research focuses on student voting behaviour, in particular the combined effects of age, education and a university environment in shaping the participation opportunities students encounter and in turn, the participation activities they engage in. More broadly, her interests are in voting behaviour and youth participation and as a Researcher for the Scottish Youth Parliament she has conducted research into the impact of youth parliaments with the Advanced Quantitative Methods Network (AQMeN). She has undertaken a number of short term internships and posts in the fields of policy, research and campaigning at Age Scotland, CLIC Sargent and (on-going) Jubilee Scotland. She was also elected Postgraduate Convener for Edinburgh University Students’ Association in October 2012 and coordinates postgraduate representation across the university.
All fieldwork was conducted via YouthSight’s Student Omnibus survey.  The fieldwork for the latest wave took place on 13th and 14th May 2013.  To date YouthSight has completed over 86 waves of fieldwork on the Student Vote between 2004 and May 2013. The sample size for each student omnibus survey is between 1,000-1,100 respondents.  Only full-time undergraduates at publicly funded UK and Higher Education institutions are included in each wave. The respondents questioned in the fieldwork for each wave are members of The Student Panel Nearly all have been recruited to the Panel via invitations from UCAS. All respondents have verified their academic email address (ending ‘’). All respondents are credited with £1 in Amazon Gift Certificates for completing each questionnaire. After completing a Student Omnibus Survey, respondents are excluded from at least the next 3 omnibus studies. Nested quotas are used to achieve a sample that was 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).

[2] Opinion Panel, The Student Vote 2012,

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

[4] Ranked on a scale from 0 (would never vote) to 10 (would definitely vote); wider UK polling from YouGov, 3rd May 2013,

[5] 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).

[7] 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).