Lib Dems top on campus

March 25, 2005

The Liberal Democrats have strengthened their grip on the campus vote, according to a new poll for The Times Higher , writes Paul Hill.

The poll of 1,031 students at 103 universities and colleges - carried out by OpinionPanel Research - found that the Liberal Democrats have extended their share of the vote from 31 per cent to 39 per cent since the last survey in January.

But while Labour's revival appears to have stalled - dipping from 29 per cent to 28 per cent - the Tories seem to have made gains from minority parties and floating voters to move from 16 per cent to 23 per cent.

The poll also found that students will give a resounding "yes" vote in next year's referendum on the European Union constitution.

OpinionPanel found that 64 per cent of students will vote in favour of the constitution in 2006.

Overwhelming majorities of students who support either Labour or the Liberal Democrats will vote "yes" in the referendum - 70 per cent and 77 per cent respectively - while 63 per cent of Tory-supporting students will vote "no". Nevertheless, one in four students has yet to decide how they will vote when faced with the question: "Should the United Kingdom approve the treaty establishing a constitution for the European Union?"

David Rendel, higher education spokesman for the Lib Dems, welcomed the pro-European constitution results and the endorsement of his party.

He said: "This is very encouraging indeed - the sixth poll that puts us in the lead among students, and the gap is widening."

Charles Hendry, the Tory higher education spokesman, said previous opinion polls had shown that people aged under 25 were second only to pensioners in the strength of their Euro-scepticism.

But he added: "In terms of the general election, we polled about 10 to 11 per cent of the student vote in 2001, so this is very encouraging for us."

Fraser Kemp MP, Labour's campaign spokesman, said: "As Charles Kennedy (the Lib Dem leader) has already admitted, voting Lib Dem will help the Tories, and a Tory government would seek to restrict higher education to an elite and refuse to tackle discrimination against students from low-income backgrounds."

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