An Exeposé survey has revealed the voting intentions of Exeter students ahead of the General Election on 7 May.
The results indicate that the most popular party among students is the Conservatives, with 30 per cent of the 912 respondents stating they will be voting for the party. This is followed by 25 per cent backing the Labour party. The Green party receive 20 per cent of student support – a figure four times higher than national polls.
The Greens also enjoy the greatest increase in support, with 15 per cent more people intending to vote for them in comparison with the last General Election. 37 per cent of previously ambivalent voters are also now backing Natalie Bennett’s party.
The Liberal Democrats see the greatest decrease in popularity, with 14 per cent fewer students supporting them. Of defecting Liberal Democrat voters, nearly a third have switched to Labour, whilst 27 per cent have moved to the Green party.
Support for parties outside of the traditional ‘big three’ is higher than the national figures. Nearly 40 per cent of respondents indicate they will support one of the smaller political parties, or are undecided about their voting preference. This is in contrast with BBC opinion polls, which suggest minority party support represents only a quarter of nationwide polling figures.*
Interestingly, more students who identify themselves as being working class intend to vote Conservative rather than Labour or Green. 32 per cent of these voters will be backing David Cameron’s party, alongside 28 per cent support for the Greens. Despite Labour’s reputation as the party of the working class, only 22 per cent of working class students surveyed intend to vote for them in the election.
Of the students planning to vote Conservative, 65 per cent consider themselves to be middle class, whilst nearly a quarter identify as being from a working class background. Both the Labour and Green parties also have overwhelming support from middle class students, with 75 and 63 per cent of their supporters coming from that background respectively.
Among those identifying as upper class, the Conservatives were again the most popular, with 45 per cent of these respondents supporting the party. Middle class voters showed similar levels of support for Conservatives and Labour, with 29 and 27 per cent intending to vote for these parties respectively.
The survey also compared party support across academic disciplines. The Conservatives’ have pledged to give businesses “the most competitive taxes of any major economy” and nearly half of Business College students who responded indicate they will be voting for them. This is in comparison to a 19 per cent support for Labour and only four per cent for the Greens.
In contrast, support for Labour and the Green party among Humanities, Engineering, Maths and Physics students was higher. 37 per cent of Politics students intend to vote Conservative, ten per cent more than those voting Labour.
Despite concerns over low student turnout, 94 per cent of survey respondents said they plan to vote in the upcoming election.
Speaking about the survey results, the University’s Vice-Chancellor Sir Steve Smith said: “The percentage of students intending to vote is a really encouraging statistic. Getting into the voting habit and engaging with the issues is what holds politicians to account.
“Personally I am not surprised by the support for minority parties or ‘don’t know’ as I don’t think the mainstream parties have presented a coherent argument for young people regardless of political colour”.
Guild President Rachael Gillies commented: “This survey further demonstrates how passionate and engaged with politics Exeter students are.
“For many students, this will be their first general election, and, particularly in a strongly contested constituency like Exeter, it is essential that young people are using their votes to be heard and elect the people whose priorities will best serve them in the coming years”.
At the time of going to print, bookies odds show Labour candidate Ben Bradshaw as the 1/33 favourite to retain the seat in Exeter, whilst Conservative Dom Morris is at 12/1. Dianna Moore of the Green party is a 50/1 outsider.
Analysis and graphics provided by Freddy Wordingham
* Data accurate at time of going to print