Polls show the power of the student vote – and this makes Nick Clegg vulnerable

In partnership with Sheffield Hallam University

Lucy Hodges
Thursday 23 April 2015 00:09 BST
Young people protest against tuition fee increases in 2014 - the student vote can be the difference between winning and losing a seat
Young people protest against tuition fee increases in 2014 - the student vote can be the difference between winning and losing a seat (Getty Images)

Detailed polls show where certain seats can be won – or lost – by the power of the student vote. Those who use the polls strategically could really make a difference.

According to the opinion polls, Labour could do best among students at the forthcoming general election. And there is increasing support among students for the Green Party.

At the last general election in 2010, the Liberal Democrats were the top choice among students but their support has fallen away, says Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI).

Meanwhile support for the Conservatives has held relatively steady among students and the party looks as though it will win around one-quarter of the student vote.

Lib Dems would cut less than Tories but more than Labour (Getty) (Getty Images)

But what of the new upstarts Ukip? Students are only half as likely to support Ukip as the rest of the population (7 per cent versus 15 per cent), according to analysis conducted by Professor Stephen Fisher of Trinity College, Oxford, for Hepi.

At the 2014 European Parliament elections, for example, students were much more likely to vote Green than UKIP (25 per cent against 11 per cent).

Although many of the students who voted Green are intending to support Labour at the 2015 general election, students could help the Greens keep their one parliamentary seat of Brighton Pavilion and students are expected to be crucial in the Green’s attempt to win Bristol West.

Many of the parliamentary seats containing sizeable numbers of students are safe seats, which means the student vote may not count for much. But at the general election the student vote could affect the outcome in up to 12 seats, according to HEPI. This would mainly benefit Labour and work to the disadvantage of the Lib Dems.

The Conservatives might lose some seats to Labour as a result of the student vote. But the Tories may at the same time win one or two owing to the fall in the Lib Dem vote in student areas.

All of this is what makes Nick Clegg so vulnerable in his Sheffield Hallam seat. Add to that the resurgence of the Greens, as well as the energy that Labour is putting into its Sheffield Hallam campaign, and Clegg’s 15,284 majority no longer looks unassailable. Which underlines just how important it is for students to use their vote.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in