The election this June is a weird one for any number of reasons. Conducted beneath the cloud of Brexit, it’s also notable for likely being the last one we’ll be able to squeeze in before global Armageddon. Enjoy it while you can!
Another weird thing about it is simply that it’s happening in June. The last three general elections have all been held in early May, and it’s possible this subtle shift in the date could have a big impact on how young people vote – or more specifically, where they vote. Holding the election after many students have finished exams could mean that more vote in their home constituencies, and 68% of those surveyed said this was their plan. It’s hard to call exactly how this might impact the result. It may mean that there’s a reduced impact from concentrated blocks of students voting in university seats. At the same time, some students may be going home to cast potentially powerful votes in marginal constituencies.
The good news is that thousands of young people are registering to vote this time around. More than 100,000 people under the age of 25 registered to vote in just three days after the election was called. According to a survey of 1,000 full-time undergraduate students conducted last week by HEPI and YouthSight, 93% of students say they’re registered to vote – much higher than many people expected given the recent changes to the electoral registration system. However, as Russell Brand demonstrated this week – it’s actually really easy to register, so there’s no excuse:
Russell Brand shows you how to Register To Vote.
Posted by Radio X on Wednesday, May 3, 2017
Of course, ‘students’ doesn’t mean all young people. The Electoral Commission doesn’t break down data between students and non-students, but it’s very likely the percentage of total young people registered is much lower than 93%. Student or otherwise, young or old, if you’re not registered you can do it right now at: www.gov.uk/register-to-vote
Go on, it’ll only take a minute.
That survey also found that student registration could be very good news for the Labour party. 55% of those who are planning to vote told the survey that they’d go with Labour if the General Election were ‘tomorrow’. 18% would vote Conservative, while the Lib Dems, who were the most popular party among students at the height of ‘Cleggmania’, have 12% support. That leaves the Greens on 6%, the SNP on 3% and UKIP on 2%.
It’s also telling what students consider to be the most important issues currently facing the country. 66% of those surveyed said that both the EU and the NHS should be at the top of the next government’s priorities, followed by education (30%), jobs (24%), the economy (22%), terrorism (17%), housing (16%), immigration (14%) and the environment (13%). Only 4% of students said that they considered personal debt to be an urgent governmental priority.
Having said that, we should be careful about generalising too much about what young people think. While many of us assume that younger people tend to be pro-EU, a separate survey published this week, the European Youth Study, commissioned by Germany’s TUI Foundation, found that 55% of young Britons consider themselves exclusively national citizens, rather than European. This compares with lower figures on the continent: 47% in France, 45% in Poland, 44% in Italy, 37% in Germany and Greece, and 27% in Spain.
A big turnout from young voters could transform this election. Last time we had a General Election in the UK – two years and what seems like a hundred lifetimes ago – only 43% of 18-24 year-olds turned out to vote, compared to well over 70% of over 45s. For all the figures and statistics that these surveys throw up, it’s only by turning out to vote on Thursday 8 June that you can actually make a difference.