According to Opinionpanel’s regular surveys of opinion amongst students, the Conservatives are now by far the most popular party amongst students. The latest figures from their May 2008 poll had party support at CON 45%, LDEM 31%, LAB 24% (the headline figures they produce are repercentaged to include only the big 3 parties for some reason). There is a detailed study of their results since 2004 by Paul Whiteley here.

Looking at the graphs in Whiteley’s paper, changes in party support amongst students are pretty much the same as changes in party support amongst the public as a whole – the main difference is just that students are far more likely to support the Liberal Democrats. However, if you look at the graph on page 9 of Whiteley’s paper, the gap between the proportion of students supporting the Conservatives and the proportion of the population as a whole who vote Conservative does look narrower now that it did a few years ago.

Actually looking at mainstream polls younger people do seem to be shifting over to the Conservatives. I first noticed this during the London mayoral elections. In the past people have always tended to get more Conservative as they get older – the least Conservative were the under 35s, the most Conservative the over 55s. YouGov’s London polls didn’t fit this pattern – they were giving Boris Johnson a lead amongst over 55s, putting Ken ahead amongst people in middle age, but putting Boris back ahead amongst under 35s.

At the time I put it down to Boris having a particular appeal to young people through things like Have I Got News For You, but looking at YouGov’s national polls it does appear to be a pattern. The graph below shows the share of Conservative support in YouGov polls since 2005 for each age group. For most of the time it shows the usual pattern, over 55s are most Tory, following by 35-55s, with under 35s the least Conservative. Looking at the last month or two though, under 35s have suddenly become more Tory than 35-55s – it looks as though it is now middle aged people – those who would have come of age during the Thatcher years – who are least Tory.


21 Responses to “Are young people becoming more Tory?”

  1. Interesting – could be attributed to the fact that many younger people, assuming they were not political anoraks when they were teens, can remember living under a Tory Government. Therefore could it be a case of wanting change or thinking ‘well they cant be as bad as what we have now’? Or Could it be a case of younger people wanting to be associated with a winner (I use that term to describe the party ahead in the polls)?

  2. sorry should be ‘can’t remember living under a Tory Govt’

  3. Although I would hesitate to draw any parallels, I remember a poll done at my school 6th form in the mid-80’s, with I think generally similar results to the above. It seems we could be heading for the 80’s again.

  4. Keith,

    Let’s hope so! Personally, I’ve always been amazed at how many of my age group (over 55) seem to have been brainwashed by obvious left-wing propaganda such as ‘Britain invented concentration camps’ – maybe but they weren’t extermination camps; ‘The Royal Family is German’ – up to a point, but George 1st’s grandmother was English ; ‘everyone is equal’ etc etc.
    Let’s hope the country is finally coming to its senses.

  5. To get back to the point, in my area the schools do a local school election with parties like Labour the lib Dem’s and the Tories, they do not do the BNP. for years Labour has won easy not a problem, until a few years ago the last election the Tories won with all schools voting for a Tory party, the people elected then go onto a school council, but the election that never was, the schools carried out an election thinking so would Labour, Labour came third it came last it was thumped. I was disappointed when my own lad said he was a Tory because New Labour was hurting the area, mind you he had toothache for six weeks until the hospital agreed to take out his infected tooth, we do not have NHS dentist in my area or we did not until this year, but we still have 12,000 people without an NHS dentist.

    Labour are hoping to allow sixteen years old to vote I think if they are hoping to get them to vote Labour because the area was once a Labour strong hold it might back fire again.

  6. No doubt about it – in fact I think all age groups are at the moment. I think the Cameron Effect is a big factor as far as young people are concerned, he is able to appeal to them much more than any previous Tory leader I can think of.

  7. My two bobsworth – Andy D is right to a point. Cameron and Clegg probably appeal to younger people more than Brown does, accounting for some of the Labour malaise in this age group

    Then there’s the fact that young people are just bloody-minded (we’ve all been there haven’t we?) Labour are in power so they want the alternative, just as in the 80s and 90s young people we’re voting against the government of the day

  8. im old enougth to remember the end of the last conservative govenment from around 93-94 on wards but alot of voters do not remember this time beacuse alot of younger people only remember the 96-97 time when the economy was back on track and inflation was back at a low level this can be most atributied to ken clearke if the young are now coming back it must be a very good sign.

  9. Reading this report I am left with the impression that it is trying to manufacture conclusions in order to justify it’s existence.

    There are significant gaps in comparative analysis which lead one to question to what extent the assumptions reflect or determine authorial bias, while the concentration of focus on General Election patterns ignores the interplay of the general political climate on behaviour – most students have the opportunity to use their vote in elections every year, abeit at different levels whether local, european or general election.

    Additionally the assumption that voters ‘stakeholder staus’ will influence voting likelihood reflects the role that cynicism has in informing disillusion at a later stage: – youthful voters have greater scope to be influenced by their choices; students are by nature more aspirational and idealistic.

    Finally I must question the methodology used, which seems pre-determined to confuse the potential for valid data results. The differentiation of university type and class and the amalgamation of course years clearly distort the specificity of outcomes and any conclusions which can be drawn from them.

    I remain purplexed by the lack of consideration the author gives to providing any margin for error within the samples.

    In other words, the data sets produced are framed within the context of wider general opinion polls and therefore give false reinforcement to them.

    We should treat this study with scepticism and more closely question both the funding basis for undertaking it and the wider implications this has for our educational institutions.

  10. Anthony your graph of the YouGov Polls by age group is really interesting.Last September seems to have been the key watershed-across all age groups.If anything the under 35s reacted, proportionately, most strongly at that time.

    A similar graph for Labour support change by age group would be very interesting-as would Social Group and UK Region ,for the main parties.

    Is there any chance of a thread on that sort of data?

  11. However…

    ‘The survey of over 1,500 UK teenagers showed that 63 per cent of 13 to 18-year-olds would not vote if the legal age was lowered.

    Forty-six per cent said in the poll, undertaken by Piczo, that they had absolutely no respect for politicians, while 22 per cent claimed public demonstration was the best way to change the status quo.

    As many as 67 per cent of those surveyed said that government policy was biased against their age group and 31 per cent claimed the largest reason for not voting was a lack of confidence that it had any effect on public policy.’

    12 Feb 2008 07:20
    http://www.inthenews.co.uk/news/politics/young-people-still-not-keen-on-voting-in-elections-$1202028.htm

    I don’t know the validity of the poll though…

  12. Sorry, for going off subject but I think the Tories may have commited a blunder by promising to link the level of tax with the level of oil prices. The Tories are suggesting that since the last budget this would have meant a reduction of 5p in fuel duty.
    Most of the comments I have been reading in response to this are rather negative and cynical.

    Indeed, I think it is ill-thought through and short-sighted.For what will they do if finally the price of oil does fall leading up to the next election. For example, the price of petrol fell from £1.50 a litre to £1.45 a litre. Then Labour could point to how under Tory tax plan fuel duty would have INCREASED by 5p.

    Ultimately, it will lead to people seeing the Conservatives to be as bad as Labour. Indeed, it does seem to me that the Conservatives are doing no more than promising that we will permanently be paying a very high price for petrol no matter what happens with price of oil.

    Personally, I had been hoping for better. And I think this could damage the Conservative as a party seen to be capable of offering something better.

  13. There really is no point talking about tax policies right now unless there’s a surprise election in the offing. And that would be a surprise if Gordon Brown went for it.

  14. Much of the problem is due to the general population being up to their necks in debt and now realising that the government is in the same position or worse. People might ignore their responsibilites for this when the bad times arrive but they sure as hell won’t forgive the governments.

    The welfare state will need dismantling in the medium to long term. There is no way we can afford it as it is forever taking a larger slice of GDP and coupled with massive increases in the cost of energy, which will never return to the $20 a barrel level, you have a recipe for a seismic shift in the political consciousness.

    At the moment I think it is just the swing of the pendulum (aided and abbeted by some laughable ministerial incompetence by nulab) but the future will likely see the return of a more Victorian economic realism.

  15. Philip JW
    I think you may have missed the point that the Fair Fuel Duty “Stabiliser” works on the base of the Treasury Forecast for it’s annual tax revenues. So it would be re-calibrated periodically.

    The idea is that if Treasury forecasts for oil price ( & related tax revenues) are exceeded in practice during the year, they don’t keep the whole windfall.

    Conversely if oil price falls below their forecast and tax revenues would undershoot, then the taxpayer gives up part of their windfall.

    The objective is to give some stability to fuel prices throughout each tax year whilst attempting to share the “Budget Variances” between the taxpayer & the Treasury-and stopping the arbitrary decision making on fuel duty which prevails currently.

    Nothing in the policy would stop the rise of the market price of oil over time-this is something we will have to learn to live with.

    The AA has welcomed the proposals, saying that it had proposed a similar system in January. The AA’s president, Edmund King, said: “The Government needs to review fuel duty as the price of a barrel of oil has doubled in just 12 months.”

    Business advisers Grant Thornton said: “The basic concept of an FFS is sound in economics terms. There is a strong argument to the effect that it would help smooth out fluctuations [to the price of road fuel, to inflation, and to the public fin-ances] arising from the fact the UK is simultaneously a measurable oil producer, and an oil consumer.”

  16. Cliff-you make some interesting observations.

    In a Poll commissioned by the BMA half of people expect to pay towards some of their NHS treatment in 10 years’ time.

  17. Jack – “Forty-six per cent said in the poll, undertaken by Piczo, that they had absolutely no respect for politicians,”

    That may mean they have *more* respect for politicians than older people ;)

  18. Are you sure there won’t be a little cheating at the margins? If Labour proposed it it would be regarded as another cynical Treasury ploy to squeeze more tax from the system.

    It’s certainly sound economicallyto smooth out tax-raising, but politically he might be making a rod for his own back.

    Perhaps Osborne’s hedge-fund friends have tipped him the wink that they can manipulate the price downwards once he gets in and thereby boost the tax revenues. (politically not great, but economically sound and he’d be in by then anyway so who cares about the polls then?)

  19. Apologies for meandering off the point.

    Young people will always rebel and react against the Govt, if given really obvious reasons to do so. The 10p fiasco, the non-election, student fees are such reasons.

    Plus the fact that Brown doesn’t look like he’s ever smoked a joint, whereas Cameron needed a bit of luck to avoid being expelled for doing so. If I were a kid, I’d be much more likely to be voting tory than I am.

  20. Are you sure there won’t be a little cheating at the margins?

    a “little” cheating would be an improvement.

  21. Colin,

    I do accept your point that the so-called fair fuel duty “stabiliser” will serve to provide greater economic stability. But I think the point would be lost on many people.
    Indeed, by the time the Coservatives come into power the price of oil will probably have reached an unrealistic high and will be falling or if not already stable.
    It offers not a crumb of comfort for those struggling to pay their bills.