What young people think about this election

Nick Lowles - 03 06 17

Nearly two-thirds of young people say that they are certain to vote in Thursday’s General Election, which, if it happens, could see them play a decisive role in many marginal seats and thus, in the final outcome. Of those who are registered and say they are certain to vote, two-thirds (68%) plan to back Labour.

That’s according to an exclusive ICM poll commissioned by HOPE not hate and supported by the National Union of Teachers (NUT).

If the turnout is anywhere near the 63% of young people who said that they were “certain” to vote, then this represents a major increase on the 43% who voted in the 2015 General Election.

Living in a key battleground seat could be an important factor in youth turnout, with four out of ten (39%) of 18-24 year-olds saying that living in a marginal constituency would make them more likely to vote.

With the latest Lord Ashcroft polling, out yesterday, suggesting that there are 70 constituencies where the two leading parties’ estimated vote shares are within 5% of each other, the turn out rate amongst young people could define the outcome.

Among the marginal seats where the youth vote could decide the outcome are Leeds North West, Norwich South, Cambridge, and Cardiff Central.

But it is not just the big University seats where the youth vote could make the difference. In Harrow West, for example, Ashcroft’s polling predicts there is only 2% between Labour and Conservatives and according to the 2011 census, there are 9,500 18-24 years in the constituency. Even if only two-thirds of them are registered, a turnout of 60% could have a major influence on the result.

Our poll found huge support for Jeremy Corybn’s Labour Party, with two-thirds of those who were registered and certain to vote saying they supported Labour (68%), with half (50%) saying Jeremy Corbyn had the right qualities to be Prime Minister (vs 28% for Theresa May).

Labour’s support was strongest in the Midlands (70%) and North (69%) and lowest in Scotland (56%) and Wales (58%).

Labour has slightly lower support in the South, with the Lib Dems (15%) and Greens (5%) polling slightly higher than their national averages.

A mere 16% of young people said they would vote Conservative, compared to 8% for the Lib Dems, 3% Green, 3% SNP and 1% each for UKIP and Plaid Cymru.

The NHS (54%), Brexit (26%), Education (22%) and Tuition fees (22%) formed their most pressing concerns. Only 8% of young people listed immigration amongst their two or three issues of concern, with only crime and defence lower.

Abolishing tuition fees was supported by 75% of young people, with just 17% opposing the idea.

An even bigger number (83%) thought the next Government should guarantee young people access to apprenticeships, with just 6% opposing the idea.

There were mixed views on a second referendum and legalising marijuana. Just over half of young people (52%) wanted the next Government to commit to holding a second referendum on Brexit after negotiations had finished. 32% opposed the idea.

Two-fifths of young people supported the legalising of marijuana, whilst 37% opposed the idea.

A majority of young people (55%) wanted 16-17 year olds to have the vote, whilst 35% disagreed.

Young people are nervous about the future. Only 5% of respondents had “high hopes” for Britain’s future, with a further 16% having “a good deal of hope”. A quarter of voters (26%) had “a little hope”, while 8% had “no hope”.

Half of those who expressed “no hope” in Britain’s future were to be found in the North of England, while a third of those having just “a little hope” were significantly more likely to be found in Wales and the Midlands.

However, people were more positive about their own future, with 47% having “high hopes” or a “good deal of hope”, whilst 18% had “little” or “no” hope.

There is clearly a lot of anxiety amongst young people around Britain leaving the EU, which of course most of them oppose. Half of young people (52%) believe that leaving the EU will reduce their life opportunities, with just 12% saying they will improve.

When asked to name one or two issues that they would like to see the UK negotiating team secure, half of voters, 49%, cited ‘Freedom of movement’ and the ability of UK citizens to live and work abroad AND EU citizens to live and work here.

A third of voters (35%) wanted Britain to retain full access to the single market and a quarter (25%) concerned with not having to pay billions in exit fees.

Only 9% of young people wanted the UK to no longer be subjected to European law and 8% cited a reduction in the number of EU nationals coming to live and work in the UK as a priority issue.

However, despite enthusiasm for Labour, there remains deep skepticism of the wider political process and politicians generally. An overwhelming majority (72%) said they had no confidence in politicians or politics to solve their problems. Just 21% of young people have any confidence in politicians.

Trust, or more precisely the lack of it, remains a major issue for young people. Most of them also felt that tabloid newspapers and wealthy individual donors had an unhealthy influence on British politics.

The BBC came out as a trusted source of information for 49% of young people, making it the single most trusted news platform. This compares to just 22% who trust newspapers (and 42% distrusted) and 18% social media (and 45% distrusted).

Family and friends were trusted by 46%.

Kevin Courtney, NUT General Secretary, told HOPE not hate:

“It is everyone’s democratic right to vote. That is why it has been so heartening to see such high numbers for voter registration, particularly amongst 18-24 year-olds, in the run up to this year’s deadline.
It is great that so many young people are engaged in politics and recognise that they have an equal say.” 

The question remains, however, will young people actually turn out to vote? Some commentators point to polls before the 2015 election which showed 60% of young people saying that they would vote but then only 43% actually did so. There is the additional worry that many students will not be at the address they‘re currently registered at.

Countering this is the fact that 64% of 18-24 year olds voted in last year’s EU referendum, so maybe, just maybe, young people will turn out in bigger numbers than in 2015.


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