A poll has revealed that just 17% of voters believed Jeremy Corbyn would wipe student debt for recent graduates if he was elected.
A fiery debate has raged in recent weeks over the Labour leader’s pre-election comments about the historic debt, which is now thought to be worth £100 billion.
In a interview with NME less than a week before polling day, Corbyn said: “Yes, there is a block of those that currently have a massive debt, and I’m looking at ways that we could reduce that, ameliorate that, lengthen the period of paying it off, or some other means of reducing that debt burden.”
Adding the he didn’t have a “simple answer” yet, he continued: “And I don’t see why those that had the historical misfortune to be at university during the £9,000 period should be burdened excessively compared to those that went before or those that come after. I will deal with it.”
While the party has denied that this was ever a pledge to forgive tuition fee bills, Tories have accused Labour of lying to young voters.
Universities minister Jo Johnson said students and graduates had been the victim of a “cynical bait and switch”, with Corbyn’s promises “unravelling like an old jumper”.
“Over five million people have student debt. Jeremy Corbyn told each of those people he would get rid of it,” he wrote in a blog on HuffPost UK. “That was a deception, calculated to win people’s votes and trust - a promise thrown out as soon as the ballot boxes were opened.”
Almost two-thirds of under 25s (62%) voted for Labour in the election, with pollsters declaring age the “new dividing line in British politics”.
But research from YouGov has now unveiled how many people thought Corbyn’s comments meant students and recent university-leavers would have their tuition fee debt written off.
According to a poll of 3,592 British adults, 17% of voters aged 18 to 24 believed the Labour leader would wipe the historic debt if he was elected, while a further 42% thought students would have their debts “reduced”.
Meanwhile, the same percentage (17%) of Brits overall took Corbyn’s statement to NME as a pledge to write off debt and 29% believed he would reduce it.
A further 21% of respondents said they thought students would receive “sympathy and some extra, undefined help”, 7% thought they would get “something else” and more than a quarter (26%) were completely unsure.
While Labour said it does not comment on polls, in a more general statement about the student debt debate, a spokesperson for the party said: “Labour’s manifesto pledged to scrap tuition fees from 2018 and write off the first year of fees for students starting university this September, so that no one is priced out of getting a degree or has to defer their start date by a year before benefitting.
“During the campaign, we also said we would protect graduates from above inflation interest rate rises on existing debt and look for ways to ameliorate this debt burden in future.”
The poll follows controversy for Labour yesterday after it emerged that one of Corbyn’s shadow ministers had in fact told voters that the party would abolish student debt.
In a campaign video on Facebook, Bradford East MP Imran Hussain said that the Labour leader had announced that: “every existing student will have all their debts wiped off”.