The student vote

YouGov have released a poll of university students. In terms of voting intention, they are, unsurprisingly, now strongly Labour – topline figures are CON 26%, LAB 42%, LDEM 15%. Full tables are here.

In YouGov’s tables there are also figures for the student vote back in May (presumably based upon what these panellists told YouGov back in May, or when they joined the panel), and this illustrates the swing against the Liberal Democrats amongst students – in May 2010 the Lib Dems had enjoyed a decisive lead amongst this cohort, with figures of CON 21%, LAB 24%, LDEM 45%.

The rest of the survey repeated a series of questions about tuition fees and the protests against them that YouGov previously asked to a nat rep survey for the Sunday Times. Most of the answers are exactly what you’d expect – 78% of students oppose the coalition’s plans on tuition fees, 80% think the Lib Dems are wrong to go back on their pre-election pledge.

85% of students are sympathetic to the protests against the tuition fees, including 27% who sympathised with the direct action against the Conservative party headquarters (this compares to 13% of the general public). 54% of students did still think that violent protests damaged the protesters cause.

Meanwhile, YouGov’s daily polling figures today are CON 40%, LAB 40%, LDEM 10%.

75 Responses to “The student vote”

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  1. Fascinated to see that DC described himself as “a child of Thatcher”.

    I’m sure this will resonate, in different ways with people. Some will rejoice, and others will simply be reminded of the 80s…

    I’m unconvinced that connecting in this way with Thatcher is a good idea.

  2. MikeN

    Actually EM called him “aChild of Thatcher “across the Despatch Box-as a criticism obviously.

    DC responded that he “would rather be a Child of Thatcher than a Son of Brown.”

  3. R.I.P. Lib Dem University Seats.

    I’m starting to think that the Populous poll in Sheffield Hallam the other week might actually be accurate, if the LDs are down 30% in student polls since May.

  4. @MIKE N
    I loved the 1980s, I had recently left the army, was doing well in my new civilian job in the Pensions business. I saw the Miners Strike at first hand, because I travelled to South Yorkshire regularly from where I then lived in North Derbyshire. I laid the stepping stones for real success in the City in the following decade. A great period in my life the 80s, and I also had my kids growing up and starting school in the beautiful Peak District.

  5. Colin
    Yes, so DC ‘accepts’ he is a child of Thatcher !?

    It will probably have no material overall effect on VI at all.

    The association of DC with Thatcher will I think could be more damaging than EM being associated with Brown. But that’s IMO and others will see it differently, of course.

    Clearly EM wants to remind voters of the ‘nasty Tories’ percept, IMO.

  6. MikeN

    I agree-it has no relevance whatsoever for the average punter.

    Its good knockabout though.

  7. @MIKE N
    I drop this line before you look as daft of Milliband.

  8. I see everyone was watching PMQs. They are so irrelevant in my life that i do not even remember they are on.

    I will be like the other 50 millions and rely on the six o clock news sound bight.

    Thatcher again eh, how interesting (stifles yawn).

    Nobody corrected me on my understanding of fiscal fact so I am pleased with my apparent expertise.

    Perhaps later arrivals will put me right.

  9. The reference to child of Thatcher was from Wikileaks, something an American had said about him with reference to his Foreign policy. Miliband made no reference to the Foreign policy bit at PMQ’s & just used it as an insult, which Cameron very aptly deflected with the quip, ‘ he would rather be a child of Thatcher than a son of Brown’.

  10. I should point out that although strong growth is welcome (and contrary to the expectations of some), it is what is supposed to happen after a recession.

  11. Robert in France,

    Was it not William Hague who first used the “children of Thatcher” line, subsequently reported in one of the cables now made public by WikiLeaks? That was my reading of the story anyway.

    Even the Guardian, who have spun the wikileaks story re the King of the BOE story, to a point that virtually obscures its meaning, have given an “unfavorable” verdict of the Leader of the Opposition’s performance today. Dragging Mrs Thatchers 20 year old name up yet again really is desperate. What a good job all the Labour PMs did a sterling job.

  13. 45% of students SAID they supported the Lib Dems, but more and more I talk to couldn’t be bothered, when the time came, to actually go and vote for them. They had just too many other things to do, apparently, and it’s just SO time consuming to vote, even if it’s just once every 5 years. And some of these non-voters are the most vitriolic in their criticism of the Lib Dems.

    Well, perhaps they should reflect that had they got off their backsides and given the Lib Dems more votes, perhaps Clegg would have had more of a mandate to argue his original position against an increase in fees. Perhaps my own excellent LD MP would have kept his seat.

    Let’s not forget: Labour support tuition fees and actually introduced them, despite a pledge in their 1997 manifesto NOT to, and the Conservatives also pledged in 2010 NOT to increase them whilst being in favour of the principle of fees.

    Frankly, students are reaping the reward of their own apathy. They showed no loyalty or commitment to the Lib Dems, yet they expect the same in return.

  14. Having campaigned in a university seat on behalf of the LibDems & being a student myself, I can tell you this. We don’t rely on the student vote as much as most people believe. For the simple fact that at the last general election whilst many students supported us and were generally friendly & positive on the doorstep, they don’t bother to turn out and vote anyways. As usual, people are over-estimating a reliance on a group who don’t vote. And has been pointed out, there were a number of university seats heavily targeted by the Lib Dems, where we didn’t win.

    Irony is, had they gotten off their arses and voted, the LibDems might have gotten more MPs and been able to win greater concessions on fees.

  15. Tony Fisher
    The irony is that it is not existing students who will suffer but those who will become students a few years down the line. The latter of course couldn’t vote at the GE even if they had found the time!

  16. Oh and I should have added that many of those students now irate about tuition fees will of course be motivated to vote at the next GE! That’s (political) life.

    C 35 L40 LD 13.

  18. Colin,
    Yes it was puzzling.Last week his questions on the school
    sports cuts were described as puzzling, now it would seem the govement is about to do a U turn on this very
    issue!Well, welll.The Coalition is out of touch and that is
    Eds point.
    Andy s.Yes, you are right, indeed Ed Milliband made a
    point of saying that it was the foreign secretary who said this.The media are so mad for idiotic soundbites that they are missing the point completely.

  19. “The irony is that it is not existing students who will suffer but those who will become students a few years down the line. The latter of course couldn’t vote at the GE even if they had found the time!”

    Correct. Noone feels more angry about the rise in tuition fees than me, especially for students going through school who will suffer without having had any say on the decision.

    But don’t forget who brought in tuition fees in the first place – Labour (breaking a pledge in their 1997 manifesto).

    Don’t forget who commissioned the Brown report on tuition fees, which recommended the increase – Labour.

    And don’t forget who got us into the economic mess which is forcing the coalition’s hand in the first place – Labour. (Peter Hain denied this tonight on Newsnight, the most stupid political utterance I’ve heard!)

    The fact remains – a huge number of students did not turn out to vote Lib Dem as they had promised. I know – I was knocking up in Oxford and they came up with innumerable excuses why they couldn’t go, most of them ludicrous. As a result, the LDs lost one seat and narrowly missed gaining another. My son had the same experience at York University; lots of good intentions but the commitment was nil in too many cases.

    Clegg and his colleagues were probably unwise to have signed the pledge, but that’s what they believed to be the way forward, as I did. I suspect that, deep down, they expected the Tories to win outright and they could safely oppose any rise. The hung parliament and obligation to form a coalition with the Tories left them in a Catch 22 situation. Had thay had power alone, the Trident replacement would have been cancelled and tuition fees frozen with the money freed up. But the Tories wouldn’t wear that, and the people didn’t show a huge enthusiasm for freezing fees by the way they voted – after all, the Lib Dems LOST seats overall. But the Lib Dems HAVE gained significant concessions for students; higher payback threshold, better grants for poorer students. And our universities will get funded adequately at last. After all, if the increase doesn’t go ahead, many of our weaker universities will simply close and many of the students now protesting wouldn’t actually have a place to study.

    Rant over – I feel better.

  20. Tony,

    I think you have unwittingly summed up the Lib Dems’ problems in your post. You will not dissipate the anger directed towards the LDs by pointing to what Labour did when they were in power, nor by shouting that you are in a coalition and compromise is necessary.

    All of the Lib Dem candidates now in Parliament signed a pre-election pledge committing them to vote against any rise in tuition fees. Not to abstain – to vote against. Whether or not they now regret having done that is beside the point. Young people voted for the Lib Dems in large numbers (however you want to play down the significance of the student vote, you didn’t win seats like Cardiff Central by accident), reeled in by general promises to restore trust in politics, and specific promises not to increase fees. Many LD MPs are now planning to betray those promises. Pointing to the “progressive” nuances in the tuition fee legislation won’t work either – the headline policy is a fee rise, which the party specifically campaigned against and now, having taken (some) power, suddenly appears to support.

    Ultimately this isn’t about who supports fees and who’s against. It’s about promises made to the electorate in what was considered to be good faith, which the party has broken. That’s not Labour’s fault. It’s not the Tories’ fault. It’s the Liberal Democrats’ fault.

  21. The Lib Dems, never expecting to be in office, have been promising unaffordable things to students for years, and frankly deserve to be exposed.

    The students who didn’t look harder at the obvious spending constraints are perhaps not the brightest students, but more likely, they just wanted to send a strong message to the other two parties.

    Interesting that Tory support has edged up amongst this group – if these figures are right.

    I think we will see Labour re-establishing support over the next few years amongst students, academics, and so on, but given they were only recently in office, and lost considerable support over quite a sustained period on several issues to do with student finance and related matters, I don’t think this is automatically going to happen quickly, and the jury is out on what happens in seats where the LDs have built a base of support on this demographic.

  22. Cardinalsin – not exactly. Pollsters don’t weight demographics up or down in that way, they weight demographics to target proportions. So people who take part in telephone polls do indeed tend to be more Labour than the population as a whole, so most pollsters weight by past vote to correct for that.

    If, under snowy conditions, this Labour bias disappeared and more Conservative supporters were at home to answer the phone it wouldn’t matter – pollsters would still be weighting to the same figures, so they might end up weighting Labour up instead of down, but it would be to the same targets and the sample would end up the same.

    The problem would arise if unusual weather conditions led to an availability bias in something that is not controlled by weighting at all. For example, pollsters don’t normally weight by if people live in rural or urban areas. What if heavy snow meant that people in rural areas were far more likely to be at home – that could create a new bias that wasn’t controlled for by existing weighting.

  23. @Robert in France

    One of the reasons why students had the time to protest is that almost all universities have a free period on Wednesday afternoon to enable participation in competitive sport. Those at the protests either chose to take a week off sport or don’t do it in the first place.

    Given that many students already have to work weekends to fund their studies keeping Wednesday afternoon free is probably one of the best strategies of getting more people involved in sport, which IMO is a good thing for the individuals concerned and wider society later on.

    Forcing a 40 hour standard week on students would remove the opportunity to undertake any extra-curricular activities – the importance of which is often under-estimated. Unpaid activities (volunteering to run technical parts of gigs) gave me work experience that led to my first job out of uni as a freelance technician.

    Having free time meant I learned about organising a team of tech people, working to a 7pm event deadline, practical technical/rigging skills, how to umpire hockey matches, organise a sporting team every week, run an election for an AGM, stand for a sabbatical election, create medieval-era shoes & clothing, do medieval sword/pole-axe fighting and goodness knows what else along the way. And on top of this I also did a degree in Physics & Astronomy.

    Forcing that course into a 40 hour week would stop so much of the productive extra-curricular work – I’d probably still be employed in the same pub I did weekend shifts in had I not gained the experience afforded by the ‘free’ time that was available. It might not appear efficient but it affords people the opportunity to do things that may end up more valuable than the degree itself – who wants to employ a sad bastard that did nothing but maths and physics for 40 hours a week and never did anything sociable or creative?

  24. I am far too old to be a student and following voting in 10 or so elections I would like to seriously ask how Clegg and the Lib Dems are being allowed to get away with this especially following the Phil Woollas verdict.

    After the Phil Woollas case it is now in English Law that if you make false statements during an election campaign you will be thrown out and the election for that seat held again. Clegg and the Lib Dems made premeditated false statements on student fees, speed of cuts, immigration etc etc intending to change them after the election finished in a hung Parliament as everyone predicted it would be. Where is the Attorney General or the election watchdog?

    [Snipped – read the comments policy please Roger. The paragraph above isn’t really in line with it either, but it raises a legal question that is at least interesting – AW]

  25. Roger – to answer the actual legal question, the Woolas verdict hasn’t changed anything in law, though the appeal verdict has clarified things somewhat.

    What is actually illegal is to make false statements about a candidate’s character during an election.

    So making false statements per se is not illegal, only false statements about a candidate’s character. The Woolas appeal verdict also stressed the difference between political statements and statements about the character of a candidate. The original Woolas verdict had, based on the Louth case in 1910, taken the view that statements could be both political and about the character of the candidate (meaning that almost all false statements about candidates could fall under this law, as saying a candidate was lying about their policy on a subject would itself reflect upon their honesty and therefore their character).

    The appeal judges decided the orginial judges had misinterpreted the law, and that there was supposed to be a division between political statements and personal ones. Thus they decided that Woolas’ falsely claiming that Watkins has not delivered on his promise to move to the constituency was not illegal, as it was an accusation that he had failed to deliver on a political promise. They also ruled that claiming Watkins was criticising Israel but not Palestine in order to appeal to Muslim voters would not have been illegal, but that it became illegal when Woolas falsely implied that Watkins was trying to appeal to violent extremists.

    Whether Clegg and the Liberal Democrats lied or not is a partisan argument that is not appropriate for this website, but if they did, it would certainly be classed as a political statement, not a statement about a candidate’s personal character (it’s also very unlikely that the law would apply to a candidates statements about themselves – certainly its intent was to stop lies about other candidates and the courts have been very reluctant to expand their powers in this area)

    Finally, you need to lodge an election petition within 60 days of the election. No matter what lies any candidate is found to have said at the general election, it’s too late to do anything about it.

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