Only two in five of young plan to vote

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Political parties face an uphill task to persuade young people to vote in the next general election, according to a poll conducted by Mori.

Only two in five 18-24 year olds are "certain or very likely" to vote compared with a turnout of more than half in 1992.

The pollsters, who were conducting the research on behalf of the TUC, discovered widespread apathy among young electors but also found that the highest level of support went to Labour. The survey found that 41 per cent would always, or normally, vote for Labour, compared with 16 per cent Conservative and 11 per cent Liberal Democrat.

Another poll conducted by NOP for the TUC in May helps to explain young people's apathy. When asked how well politicians understood what working life was really like, 45 per cent said "not very well". A further 24 per cent said "not at all well".

The measure of support for Labour in the latest poll was highest in Wales with 65 per cent, 54 per cent in the North, 52 per cent in Scotland and 47 per cent in London. However, only one in three in the Midlands, and one in four in the South and East Anglia supported Labour.

Backing for the Tories is higher in the South and among full-time workers on a permanent contracts. Around one in three young people earning more than pounds 150 a week say they would always or normally vote Tory, compared with one in six young people as a whole.

One in ten young people said they would vote Liberal Democrat and this rose to one in five in the South.

While the survey results will make disappointing reading for Labour politicians who are expecting to attract most of the votes among the young, John Monks, TUC general secretary, said the findings were most depressing for the Conservatives.

There was little to please trade unions in the research material and no sign that young people were reverting to collectivist attitudes in the face of a tougher work environment. There was considerable pessimism about the future quality of life and job prospects for young people in Britain but an optimism about their own future employment.

The survey found nearly three-quarters of the young people surveyed did not meet the "two-year rule" qualifying period for legal protection against unfair dismissal. Half of respondents cited instances of unfair treatment at work with the most commonly mentioned examples low pay and "poor treatment by management".

However, union leaders did not emerge with their reputations enhanced. Some 22 per cent of respondents thought they were out of touch with the world of work.

There was a substantial degree of support for Labour policies. Some 78 per cent wanted a national minimum wage to protect employees from exploitation and 90 per cent agreed they should have the right to be represented.