As polls opened for what has been deemed the most unpredictable election in British political history, bathimpact conducted their own exclusive exit poll in a survey of over 200 students.
The poll showed that the Conservatives have taken a dramatic lead with over 47% of students surveyed voting Tory. Liberal Democrats have come second with 22% and the Greens third with 18%. Labour came fourth with only 13% of the student vote whilst none of the 211 students surveyed voted for UKIP, English Democrats or the Independent candidate.
With over 22,000 students living in Bath, making up roughly a quarter of the city’s population, the student vote is crucial to the outcome of the election in Bath.
At the beginning of the year, the Greens had strong support with Bath students. A bathimpact poll taken in February 2015 showed that 26% of Bath students intended to vote Green, making them the most popular party amongst students. The Greens’ support however has dropped significantly, which is critically damaging to a party that relies so heavily on the under 25 vote.
The Conservatives, who only had 23% of the vote at the time, have made huge gains in a few short months. This support from students will help the Conservative candidate, Ben Howlett, challenge the traditional Liberal Democrat stronghold in Bath.
Perhaps what is most surprising about these results is Labour’s meagre results amongst students. The BBC predicted that Labour would benefit the most from the student vote as they are the only major party pledging to reduce tuition fees. Despite this, they continue to trail behind the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats amongst Bath students.
There is, of course, the potential that students in Bath have cottoned onto the fact that, ultimately, the seat comes down to two parties: the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. Green and Labour supporter, therefore, might have faced a difficult decision: to tactical vote or not to tactical vote.
The national polls show some marked distinctions. Whilst UKIP have not managed to push beyond 0% in the bathimpact polls, nationally they poll around 13%. Due to the British first-past-the-post system however, UKIP are only predicted to win one seat in the House of Commons according to Newsnight. The Green party have been polling nationally at around 4%, much lower than their results in Bath. They too are predicted to win only one seat in Brighton, although they do pose a significant threat to the incumbent MPs of Bristol West and Norwich South.
The Conservatives and Labour have each polled nationally at around 34%. According to the latest prediction from Newsnight, this will give the Conservatives 281 seats and Labour 266 seats. With these results, neither party has enough seats to form a majority government meaning that a coalition is likely to be on the cards, what that coalition is to look like is yet to be seen.
The Independent predicts that the most likely outcome will be a Conservative – Liberal Democrat coalition, however the Newsnight figures predict that the Lib Dems will only win 27 seats, meaning that the Conservatives will still be 17 seats short of forming a majority government.
Labour on the other hand have ruled out any possibility of a coalition with the SNP meaning that they may have to form a ‘rainbow coalition’ with numerous parties such as the SDLP, the Greens, the DUP and the Liberal Democrats if they hope to form a government.
What is clear from these exit polls is that the importance of this election does not rest with the two major parties, rather it will be the third and minority parties who will ultimately be the king makers.