Students more likely to vote tactically on Brexit

Thursday, November 7, 2019

More than half of students are ready to vote tactically in the general election, with Brexit the key factor, according to research.

The analysis from the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) says 53% will vote in a way to maximise the chances of their side of the Brexit divide.

The poll of more than 1,000 undergraduates shows 74% oppose Brexit.

Hepi director Nick Hillman says for many students it would be "full-on tactical voting because of Brexit".

The 12 December election date means many students will be back in their family home for Christmas - but they will still have the option to vote in their university constituency, or from their home address.

Brexit or fees?

But the polling analysis from Hepi, using data from YouthSight polling firm, shows more students expecting to vote tactically than in the previous election, with Brexit driving much of the decision making.

The polling shows 53% would vote tactically, 15% would be unwilling and 33% were "neutral".

In 2017, there were 47% ready to vote tactically.

Tactical voting for students could be choosing in which seat to vote or whether to back a candidate more likely to win, who otherwise might not be their first choice.

Mr Hillman says rather than student-focused issues - such as tuition fees - Brexit seems more influential on voting intentions.

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According to the pollsters, Brexit seems to be intensifying as a factor for student voters, rather than diminishing.

Among student voters, 70% want another referendum and 75% expect Brexit to have a negative impact on their future prospects.

For student voters, 71% said Brexit would have an influence on their voting.

Swing seats

In the 2017 general election, the student vote was seen as delivering some big swings to Labour, helping them to take seats with a significant student population, such as Canterbury and Portsmouth South.

But Mr Hillman, a former special adviser to a Conservative universities minister, says this is now a different student electorate.

"Most of today's full-time undergraduates were not at university when the 2016 referendum took place, nor when the 2017 election occurred," he said.

"They are literally different people to past student voters. But the majority of today's students are strongly pro-Remain. They want another referendum and most say Brexit could affect how they vote at this election.

"A sizeable number are willing to consider full-on tactical voting because of Brexit."

The survey was carried out across UK universities in October, before the election was called.

Youthsight, which conducted the poll, has a panel of 150,000 people aged 16-30 which it uses for research projects.

Source: BBC News