YouthSight’s most recent polling of higher education students shows student opinions have remained relatively stable over the last year, and that students take a more left-wing and pro-European stance than the general electorate. Labour continues to be the preferred party, followed by the Conservatives. The Green Party now consistently takes third place, with the Liberal Democrats proving increasingly unpopular with students.
This wave of research also included topical questions on Scotland. The majority of Scottish students in our sample would vote ‘No’ in a referendum on Scottish independence; however should it happen there is an overwhelming preference to keep the pound.
- Liberal Democrats at lowest ebb with students since 2004
- Green Party student support at highest ever level
- Students are pro-Europe
- Labour still students top choice
- Scottish students want to remain part of the UK
Students' third party
YouthSight’s latest polling research finds the Liberal Democrats popularity amongst students at a 10 year low. At their peak (April 2010) the Liberal Democrats were polling 50% of the student vote, while the most recent figures show their student support at 6%. The Liberal Democrats reputation both with students and the general electorate continues to be damaged by their participation in the coalition government.
Traditionally the Liberal Democrats have polled better with students than with the general public, even following their collapse in popularity after the 2010 election. This trend has now reversed, with recent polls placing Lib Dem support at 10% amongst the wider population (4 percentage points higher than students)
Over the last year the Liberal Democrats have lost their title of UK’s third most popular party to UKIP, but UK students are pledging their support elsewhere. The latest YouthSight student results are the Green Party’s strongest showing yet (14%), putting them in third place behind Labour and the Conservatives. The Green Party student support has more than doubled since the last election (6%-14%), first pushing the Liberal Democrats to fourth place in April 2013.
There is the potential for disconnect between mid-term polling results and actual election voting, but the Green Party appear to be gaining some traction with the wider electorate too, perhaps as a result of environmental issues highlighted by the extreme weather experienced in the UK last winter.
Students and Europe
An overwhelming majority of students (83%) would vote for the UK to remain in the EU if there were a referendum on membership. On the whole UK students tend to adopt a more pro-European stance than the general population where anti-European feeling appears to be rising.
This is demonstrated by the recent UKIP success in capitalising on EU immigration furore, culminating in live, televised political debates in which Nigel Farage is widely judged to have won  . The result non-withstanding, participating in the debates increased the profile of issues surrounding the EU and further legitimised UKIP as a viable political party. Support for UKIP has risen very slightly amongst students, in 2012 they were consistently polling at or below 2%, but since 2013 have been hovering around 5%.
Students' overall party preference
Students are still more likely to vote for Labour than any other party if there were a general election tomorrow. Student polling results are traditionally more variable and more left wing than those of the general public. YouthSight’s most recent wave of results shows that 43% of students would vote Labour, compared to 37% of the general electorate. The pattern is reversed for the Conservatives, who are polling at 33% overall but have only 24% of the student vote.
Labour continues to hold an advantage with the general population; however their lead has been cut from double digits (10-12%) to single figures (4-6%) over the last year. Students are exhibiting the same pattern; Labour is still the most popular party, but support has fallen by 7 percentage points since April 2013 (from 50% to 43%). In the same period the Conservatives have seen a 2-3% increase amongst students as well as the general public. The recent up-turn in the British economy will mitigate, for some, the desire to cast a protest vote.
Opposition parties often enjoy considerable leads in mid-term election polls  , which do not necessarily translate to a change in government come election time. As the scheduled 2015 election approaches, a tightening of the polls is to be expected.
Student/National party preference 2014
* 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)
Scottish students and independence
The polls on Scottish independence are narrowing, with the most recent results the closest yet, placing the Yes vote at 41% and the No vote at 46%  . YouthSight’s recent research with Scottish students suggests that they are less supportive of independence than the wider Scottish population, with 37% favoring independence and 58% preferring to stay as part of the UK.
In the event of independence, 86% of Scottish students would support Scotland continuing to use the pound. This is in line with the proposed policy of the SNP, who claim that Westminster parties are bluffing by stating that a currency union is out of the question. When asked who they believed, Scottish students could not come to a consensus, with almost equal proportions unsure whether to believe the SNP or Westminster parties.
Ben Marks, Managing Director, YouthSight, 020 7288 8789 firstname.lastname@example.org
Sarah Newton, Senior Research Executive, YouthSight , 020 7288 8789 email@example.com
YouthSight is a full service market research company specialising in youth, student and young professional research. All fieldwork was conducted via YouthSight’s Student Omnibus survey. The fieldwork for the latest wave took place on 1st and 2nd April 2014. To date YouthSight has completed over 80 waves of fieldwork on the Student Vote since July 2004. The sample size for each student omnibus survey is between 1,000-1,100 respondents. For this wave we included a boost sample of Scottish students, achieving 200 interviews with this group.
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 ‘ac.uk’). 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).
Our full list of Student Vote reports / press releases - http://www.opinionpanel.co.uk/category/results/thestudentvote/
For our interactive (online) student voting intention chart http://www.opinionpanel.co.uk/interactive-student-voting–intention-graph/
 Data based on April 1st 2014 poll for YouGov/Sun http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/uk-polling-report-average-2