Majority of UK students plan to vote Labour, Hepi poll finds

Labour has backing from 55 per cent of those questioned, while Lib Dems lag behind Tories after fees trauma

May 4, 2017
Jeremy Corbyn supporters
Source: Getty

More than half of UK students are planning to vote Labour and Jeremy Corbyn is their favourite party leader, according to a poll for the Higher Education Policy Institute.

The survey of more than 1,000 students, carried out by the youth research agency YouthSight ahead of the 8 June general election, found that 55 per cent would vote Labour if the ballot were held tomorrow.

Behind Labour in second place were the Conservatives, who had the support of 18 per cent of students, followed by the Liberal Democrats (12 per cent), the Green Party (6 per cent), the Scottish National Party (3 per cent) and the UK Independence Party (2 per cent).

The findings suggest that Labour has boosted its support among students since the previous general election. Forty-three per cent of respondents who voted in the 2015 election backed Labour, compared with 22 per cent for the Tories and 9 per cent for the Lib Dems.

As the Hepi poll was a national one, it did not look at the particular constituencies where student voters might be a key force.

Asked which party was the best for students, 40 per cent said Labour, 10 per cent Greens, 8 per cent Lib Dems and just 5 per cent the Tories.

The poll also asked students what impact the Lib Dem leadership’s decision to support the trebling of tuition fees to £9,000 in 2010 – after having pledged during the preceding election campaign to scrap fees – would have on their choice of party to support in the coming election.

Fifty-three per cent of respondents said that it would have an impact, while 26 per cent said that it would not.

The findings suggest that despite the optimism of Lib Dems such as Sir Vince Cable – who recently told Times Higher Education that he believed that their fees trauma was “largely history” and that support was reviving in universities – the party faces a long road to regaining student support.

Students were also asked how they felt about the major party leaders on a scale of 0 (strongly dislike) to 10 (strongly like).

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn earned a mean score of 5.8, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron 4.4 and Conservative leader Theresa May 3.7. That made Mr Corbyn the only party leader who was “liked”, on balance, by respondents.

Whether students will vote is another matter – an issue also put under the microscope by Hepi in the poll.

Asked if they were registered to vote, 93 per cent said yes, 5 per cent said no, and 2 per cent didn’t know. Asked where they planned to vote, 25 per cent said in their “university constituency”, 68 per cent said in their “home constituency” and 7 per cent didn’t know.

Nick Hillman, the director of Hepi, said that it was “clear that, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour are firmly back in prime position among students”.

But he added: “While Labour are very well placed, this won’t necessarily translate into winning lots more university constituencies on 8 June. For students to make a difference on election day, they must be present in marginal seats in sufficient numbers to swing the result.”

john.morgan@timeshighereducation.com

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