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Does the student vote count

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					                                                              Panellist Feedback Report July 05



                             The Student Panel
                  Panellist Feedback Report – July 2005


Does the student vote count?
In the weeks preceding the general election, the Liberal Democrats openly courted the student
vote, but did this benefit the party once the counts were in? The Liberal Democrats made a
net gain of 11 seats, but what was ‘the student effect’? As the only pollsters carrying out
regular research into students’ voting intentions and party preferences, we were in a unique
position of being able to report on this.

With two thirds of students (67%) voting in the constituency for their term-time university
address, the student Liberal Democrat vote did seem to play significant role in some cities with
large student populations. The most frequently cited example was Manchester Withington
where a high proportion of student voters helped the Liberal Democrat candidate John Leech
overturn Labour’s majority with a 17% swing.


Table 1 – Results on the general election v. how student voted

                                              42%

               36%
                            33%

                   27%
                                          23%                          National result
                                19%
                                                                       Students


                                                        8% 8%




                Labour    Conservatives     Liberal   Other Parties
                                          Democrats



The Liberal Democrats also targeted and won seats from Labour in other cities with large
student populations like Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff and Leeds.




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                                                                                   Panellist Feedback Report July 05

Despite strong and consistent support from students, the Liberal Democrats seemed to suffer
from tactical voting for Labour. After the election, it transpired that student support for them
had been significantly lower than expected just two weeks before the election. Perhaps
students had heeded Tony Blair’s suggestion that ‘there are three ways to get a Tory MP. One
is to vote Tory, one is to stay at home, one is to vote Liberal Democrat…’ (The Times, May 3rd
2005).

As shown in Table 2, when asked after the election how they had voted, student support for
the Liberal Democrats was five percentage points lower than anticipated in April. Labour
benefited from the Liberal Democrats’ loss with a four percentage point increase to 27% of the
vote on May 5th, while the Conservatives fell three percentage points to 19%.
Table 2 – How did you vote in the recent general election?




                                                                                                       47%       GENERAL
                                                                                                                 ELECTION

                                                                     39%
            38%                                      37%                                                             42%

                                                     33%
           30%
                                                                        29%                                             27%
                                                                                                       23%
                                                                       23%
            23%                                                                                        22%
                                                     19%                                                                19%


                                                     9%
            8%
                                                                      6%                               6%
                                                                                                                        6%

            2%                                       2%               2%                               2%               2%

        Oct-04      Nov-04        Dec-04        Jan-05          Feb-05           Mar-05           Apr-05          May-05

           Labour    Liberal Democrat      Conservative        Scottish National Party / Plaid Cymru        Some other party


          Excludes those unlikely to vote, and those saying ‘Don’t know’ and ‘Would not vote’.
  Data from October 2004 – April 2005 is for intended voting party: ‘How would you vote if there were a
                                      general election tomorrow?’

Twenty-four percent (24%) of those who voted Labour felt they had voted tactically, compared
with 18% and 17% for the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives respectively, a difference
which could account for Labour’s gain.

The main issue influencing students’ vote was Higher Education (43%), closely followed by
taxation and public services (40%). Taxation and public services was a much higher priority
for third year students (52%) approaching graduation and their first job than it was for first
years (38%) with a few more years of academia ahead of them.




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                                                              Panellist Feedback Report July 05




Finding out more
If you found this report interesting and would like more details on the research, or would like
information about using these and other findings for articles in the student press, please email
us at info@opinionpanel.co.uk.

Methodology
General election findings are from a study based on 1009 on-line interviews with students in
their first to seventh years of study at 120 UK Higher Education Institutions. The fieldwork
took place between 31st May and 7th June 2005. Post-research, the panel was weighted
according to the national pattern for gender, year of study and university type as defined by
the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) Student Record 2002/3.

Opinionpanel Research
T: 020 7288 8796
F: 020 7288 8772
E: info@opinionpanel.co.uk
W: www.thestudentpanel.co.uk




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