Over a quarter of University of Bath students are set to vote for the Green Party at this year’s general election, according to a new poll conducted by bathimpact.
The Greens, who won the vote of 26% of those surveyed, were followed closely behind by the Conservative Party, which received a 23% vote share in the poll.
These figures correspond to the results of recent polls amongst young people at a national level, as a recent YouGov poll revealed that the Greens and the Tories are level pegging amongst the youth vote, with 22 per cent of 18 to 24 year olds across the country planning to vote for each of the parties.
Despite Young Greens, the youth wing of the Green party, having just over half the number of members nationally as Conservative Future, the Tories’ respective youth outlet, the Greens have received widespread support from the student community in Bath. Both parties have significantly more youth members than any other political party, with the Conservatives doing particularly well in terms of party membership, as Conservative Future has 15,000 members nationally.
This strength in the parties’ youth movements make both the Greens and Conservatives appear to have a significant amount of support amongst young people both nationally and within Bath at the moment, as polls can only show so much – many young voters are still undecided, with a quarter of students at the University of Bath being unsure of who to vote for.
Secretary of the University of Bath Conservative Future Roberto Di Paola told bathimpact that he is “very pleased” with the survey results, adding that “it illustrates that students are supportive of the work the Conservatives have done in a wide range of areas, especially the economy.
“[This result] comfortably challenges the conventional wisdom that the Conservatives will not eat into the student vote, which will be a decisive voting bloc in the upcoming election.”
Arguably this recent surge in Green support at the University, as well as nationally, is greatly connected to the failure of the Liberal Democrats to implement the youth-friendly policies they had laid out in their 2010 election manifesto.
The Lib Dems lost a significant amount of student support since the last general election, receiving just 6% of the vote share in the bathimpact poll. The Greens are now seen by many young people – particularly students who had voted Lib Dem primarily based on their position on tuition fees – as the only liberal alternative.
Whilst the student population continues to look at Nick Clegg with distrust, students now look to the Green party for so-called ‘youth policies’ such as the scrapping of tuition fees. Many Bath students may have felt particularly betrayed by the Lib Dems after the passing of the Article 4 direction by the Lib Dem-led council, which placed greater restrictions on the development of Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs).
Meanwhile, images of Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, getting arrested for protesting against fracking further persuade many young people that the Green Party is the only party willing to fight for left-wing values.
Jamie Smith, the Green Party’s local candidate for the Oldfield Park ward and University of Bath student, has said the party is “delighted” by the results, adding, “As a student at the university it’s fantastic to see so many students engaging with our policies like scrapping tuition fees.
“This poll shows people have seen we are about more than just the environment and backs up that we are nationally ahead with young people. I’m thrilled that so many people will be turning out to vote in the general and local elections and will be voting Green. We really can and will make real gains in BANES in this election.”
Whilst the Labour party comes out top amongst 18 to 24 year olds at a national level (receiving about 32 per cent of the vote share in the same poll), University of Bath students do not appear to be so convinced.
Just 15 per cent of those surveyed said they would vote for the opposition party, despite the Bath Labour party aiming young with their candidate being 19-year-old university student Ollie Middleton. Labour’s success in the West Country has, however, long been limited, with just 13 out of 50 constituencies in the South West being held by the party; the constituency of Bath has, in fact, never elected a Labour candidate to Parliament. Thus it is unsurprising that the figures for the Labour party from University of Bath students do not match those of their counterparts nationally.
Perhaps even more unsurprising is the support for the UK Independence Party amongst the University’s student population; less than 1% of those surveyed said that they intend to vote for UKIP at this year’s general election, despite the party’s attempts to push for the youth vote.
In terms of voting behaviour, the overwhelming majority of University of Bath students consider policies to be of utmost importance. When asked: ‘How will/did you decide which party to vote for?’, over three-quarters of those surveyed answered that the party’s policies best match their views, with just 5 per cent voting for a party based on their family’s views, with a similar proportion of students voting based on the party leader.
The poll also found that just over a fifth of University of Bath students have yet to register to vote, whilst only 1% do not intend to vote at all at the general election. Additionally, eligible student voters at the University appear to be split fifty-fifty in terms of voting at either their home constituency or voting in Bath.
The survey conducted by bathimpact also looked into issues which students at the University found particularly relevant for the general election.
When asked “Which one issue is the most important in the upcoming election for you?”, 30% said ‘fixing the economy, jobs’; despite the national unemployment rate continuing to decrease, youth unemployment remains at its worst since 20 years ago, with young people aged 16 to 24 being three times more likely to be unemployed.
With figures such as these, it is not surprising that amongst students, the economy, and jobs in particular, is the most important issue in this year’s election.
Other significant issues for Bath students included ‘inequality, income disparities, tax avoidance’ (17% of the vote share), ‘education, universities, tuition fees’ (16%, and ‘healthcare, NHS’ (12%). Immigration did not come out as particularly important to Bath students, with just 3% of those surveyed arguing that it is the most important issue for this election, despite it being considered to be among one of the most significant issues at a national level.
Young people aged 18 to 24 represent 24.4% of eligible voters in Bath, making the student vote particularly significant for this constituency. This is especially true for this year’s general election, as the incumbent MP, Liberal Democrat Don Foster, will be stepping down from his post, leaving the election open to all the party political candidates, and giving students in Bath the opportunity to swing the election.
The survey was conducted with individuals on a face-to-face basis and polled 356 eligible, prospective voters.