An exclusive Bournemouth University poll has revealed the votes of young people are up for grabs just 50 days before the General Election.
The snapshot survey of students shows 42% of those planning to vote remain undecided where to put their cross on May 7. And there were few showing any strong agreement with any single party.
With 3m young people having their first opportunity to vote in a British election, the BU poll suggests there’s all to play for as election day looms ever nearer.
But the poll also contains a worrying wake-up call for prospective Members of Parliament.
Most young people polled thought MPs are out of touch with just 5% believing politicians had a good understanding of the issues affecting them.
A significant number – over one third – did not feel that they were sufficiently informed to make a choice.
And while 11% are undecided whether to vote, a further 9% have already decided not to bother.
Other key findings include:
- The Tories lead the pack among students intending to vote with the Greens close behind and Labour in third;
- The Green Party picked up most 19-20 year old’s, and most under 25s disagree with UKIP;
- David Cameron topped the poll as the ‘best prime minister’ followed by the Greens’ Natalie Bennett, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage;
- The three issues most important to students are the NHS, education/schools and the economy.
The poll, conducted last week among 457 students aged under 25, will be regularly updated as more respondents complete the questionnaire ahead of the election.
Today’s preliminary findings have been released to coincide with the launch of BU’s extensive, multimedia coverage.
BU will be bringing you all the local and national news during the election build up. And the university will become a multimedia news hub on 7 May to provide all the breaking election stories on radio, TV and online.
The general election campaign starts officially on March 30 and pundits agree the outcome is too close call.
It could once be assumed the Tories need to be around seven points clear of Labour to secure a majority but the notion of a uniformed swing no longer appears that straightforward in an era of six-party politics.
Opinion polls suggest the election could result in a hung parliament with no single party winning an overall majority, leading to speculation about possible coalitions.
With polls in Scotland suggesting the SNP could take almost all of Labour’s 41 seats, the surge in support for the Scottish Nationalists is dominating Labour and Tory tactics. Lord Baker of Dorking, claiming a Labour minority government reliant on the SNP would be a “nightmare”, has even suggested a Tory-Labour coalition may be needed to prevent the SNP holding the balance of power.
These new political dynamics mean many formerly safe seats now appear to be marginals. There are 194 of them if a marginal is defined as a seat with majorities of 10% or less that requires a swing of 5% for the incumbent party to lose; 82 are Conservative, 79 Labour, 27 Lib Dem, three SNP, two Plaid Cymru and one Green.
One is right on BU’s doorstep. Annette Brooke won Mid-Dorset and North Poole in 2010 with a majority of 269 votes to secure the 15th smallest majority in Britain for the Lib Dems.
No wonder the election is focused sharply on the non-voters and those heading for the ballot box for the first time. They could swing the outcome.
The statistics illustrate why: Nine million women and 8.1 million men declined to vote at the last election. To put that in perspective, the Conservatives won 10.7 million votes and Labour got 8.6 million.
Meanwhile a YouGov poll for British Future showed only one third of first time voters plan to vote – leaving 2 million to persuade to follow suit.
The BU poll offers some encouragement in this respect. The initial results show that on the whole the young respondents (under 25s) claim they are interested in politics, feel the outcome of the election is important for the nation as a whole and largely agree voting is a duty.
They also claim they are likely to watch the debates (if they take place), follow news about the election and are likely to visit party or candidate websites. A significant number also claim a likelihood that they will look up and follow political parties and candidates on social media demonstrating how unusual this group of respondents are as compared to broader young people.
But like many other young people they show much more mixed views when asked if they feel sufficiently informed to make a choice
They are also unsure whether their vote can make a difference but, more positively, agree that they should vote for the party they most agree with independent of that party’s chances of winning locally or nationally.