The Student vote - update December 2014
- The Green Party is now the second choice party for students
- Labour and Conservatives see small falls in support
- Lib Dem support continues to fall, and are now slightly lower than UKIP
The Green Party is now the second choice party for students, moving ahead of the Conservatives for the first time. Labour remain the first choice party, but support is slipping as the general election approaches, a trend seen amongst the wider population. Support for the Liberal Democrats continues to fall, putting them in 5th place - 1% behind UKIP and only just ahead of the SNP.
This is the first time in ten years of student polling that we’ve seen any party apart from the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats or Labour in a top three position. The increasing support for the Greens is part of a wider trend of disenchantment with the current state of politics and politicians, felt particularly strongly among young people. However, unlike among the general population, UKIP has not been a beneficiary of this disenchantment among students. UKIP has seen minimal growth in support from students.
Josephine Hansom, Head of Youth Research & Insight is not surprised by the increased popularity of the Greens. She commented, “The Green Party has been gaining popularity amongst students quickly and steadily for over a year now. We believe it is because young people are finding it harder to identify with the more established political parties; they don’t have faith in traditional institutions or politicians’ ability to provide the answer. The Greens appear to be connecting with those who are disenchanted with the current political landscape and who are looking for something new or an alternative, for example nearly half of all Green supporters in our poll (46%) believe that the Green Party is ‘different’ to the other political parties.”
Pursuing this trend, we asked students which words they would use to describe politicians, offering positive and negative descriptors. The negative descriptors such as ‘dishonest,’ ‘privileged,’ ‘detached’ and ‘greedy’ were overwhelmingly chosen over more positive attributes.
Why the Green Party?
The last 18 months have seen the Green Party gain 14 percentage points and move from 4th to 2nd place amongst students. This means a quarter of students who are likely to vote would cast their ballot for the Green Party if there were an election tomorrow. As the rise of the Green Party is arguably the most compelling change in YouthSight’s polling data in 2014, we have to explore why.
In part it is due to dwindling support for the Liberal Democrats, which has plummeted from a 50% extreme high at the time of the last general election, to the 5% low recorded in our latest wave of polling. In 2010, the Lib Dems were the ‘student’s party’ but their entry into the coalition government and perceived reneging on their top-up fees pledge has caused them serious electoral damage.
However, Lib Dem losses do not tell the whole story. It is no secret that the UK electorate are becoming increasingly disillusioned and frustrated with the current political parties and system. In the last year, this has manifested itself in a surge in support for UKIP and the stronger than expected backing of Scottish Independence. Amongst students, this is evidenced by increased support for the Green Party.
A remarkable 83% of students who support the Greens began to do so in the last two years, with 30% doing so in the last six months. This change most threatens the Labour party, as 28% of those currently supporting the Greens, supported Labour in the past (compared with 17% and 13% for the Lib Dems and Conservatives respectively.) A further 40% did not previously back any party, suggesting that the Greens are picking up support from both disenfranchised and new voters.
Hansom added, “there’s been lots of talk about the growth in support for the Green Party in the last year or so. And a number of general population polls have shown their voting intention numbers on the rise too. But I’ve seen nothing this stark. By focusing in just on students we can see that among the best educated and most engaged group of young people – tomorrow’s opinion formers and leaders – support for the Greens is moving beyond the margins, well and truly into the mainstream”
For students who support the Greens, the second and third most popular reasons for doing so (after environmental concerns) are a ‘lack of trust in other parties’ and ‘increasing disillusionment with other parties.’
Whilst student voting patterns are not traditionally reflective of the wider population, recent research by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) has highlighted that the student vote could swing the results of some constituencies. Should these trends continue, we are gearing up for one of the most unpredictable elections in living memory.
YouthSight will continue to track student voting intentions and opinions up to and beyond the election. We published updates in September 2014, April 2014 and have produced reports of various sizes most years since 2004. If you’re interested in our student polling – or youth research in general - please contact us (see below).
YouthSight has been polling student voting intention for the last 10 years. With nearly 100 waves of polling data, YouthSight provides and uniquely accurate picture of the student market. YouthSight’s latest results show a fascinating shift in student voting intention.
About this research
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. Respondents have verified their academic email address (ending ‘ac.uk’). 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). Fieldwork was conducted between 5th – 8th December 2014. To date YouthSight has completed 98 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.
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