YOUNG VOICES

Conservatives Become 'Second Favourite' Party For Students, Poll Finds

2010 tuition fee U-turn comes back to haunt the Lib Dems once again.

04/05/2017 11:48 BST

The Conservatives have become the second most popular student party as undergraduates “fail to forgive” the Liberal Democrats over their 2010 tuition fee U-turn, a new poll has revealed. 

A survey of 1,000 undergraduates found that 55% plan to vote for Labour in the General Election and one in six (18%) will back the Tories. The Lib Dems have just 12% support.

In 2010, despite pledging to oppose tuition fee increases, the Lib Dems supported a move that saw university fees rise to £9,000 a year under the coalition.  

POOL New / Reuters
The Tories have been ranked as the second most popular party for students in a new poll

Ben Marks, Managing Director of YouthSight, which conducted the poll alongside the Higher Education Policy Institute, said: “Given the strong support from students for the Remain side in the referendum and the centrality of Brexit at this election, it is most surprising that the Liberal Democrats have benefited so little from their unequivocal opposition to Brexit.” 

He added: “They will have to work a lot harder to try and cleanse their brand of the damage inflicted by their volte face on student fees seven years ago, when most of the current undergraduate electorate was below voting age.” 

According to Marks, the Lib Dems “regularly enjoyed a 30% to 40% share among students” before 2010. 

However, when asked how favourable each of the main party leaders are, students today gave Tim Farron a score of minus 10. Theresa May ranked last last with a rating of minus 33. 

PA Archive/PA Images
The Lib Dem's tuition fee U-turn has been blamed for declining student support

Despite just 9% of students believing politicians have their “best interests at heart”, Jeremy Corbyn received a favourability score of plus 29. 

Since 2005, Labour’s undergraduate support has almost doubled, with 40% of respondents rating it the best party for student interests. 

The EU, the NHS and education were all rated as top areas of concern for this group, while 72% of undergraduates said Brexit would impact how they vote in the election on June 8. 

HEPI director Nick Hillman said: “There are over a million undergraduates entitled to vote at this election and they are concentrated in certain constituencies.

“They are an important group of voters, but only if they choose to wield their power.” 

Research released on Wednesday warned that thousands of young people stand to miss out on having their say because they have not registered to vote. 

However, 93% of students polled by HEPI and YouthSight said they are already on the electoral role. 

For more information about how to register to vote, click here