A BBC report today (December 27) suggests that the votes of people aged 18-25 are key to success in the general election next May.
This will be terrific news for the Labour Party, as an Opinium/Observer poll on the views of people aged 17 to 22 has given Labour a 15 per cent lead over its nearest rival – on 41 per cent, compared with the Conservatives on 26 per cent, the Greens on 19 per cent and the Liberal Democrats on just six per cent.
But these polls never compare like for like, and the poll quoted by the BBC, carried out by Populus for the thinktank Demos (who the BBC describes as left-leaning, although some may dispute that), suggests that 44 per cent of young people have not decided which way they’ll vote. The difference is that these are people aged 18 to 25.
Both polls show around three million young people will be eligible to vote in May, but present a spread of information about their preferences that suggests no British political party has entirely claimed their loyalties.
For example, the Opinium poll shows 62 per cent of young people said they believed the UK’s membership of the EU was a good thing, including 57 per cent of Conservative-inclined voters, with only 14 per cent disagreeing.
Asked how they would vote in an in/out referendum, as proposed by David Cameron, 67 per cent said they would vote to stay in, while only 19 per cent would opt to leave. Among all voters, the split is close to 50-50 (according to The Observer).
This suggests that a more strident anti-EU message from the Conservatives, to counter the threat of Ukip, would drive away more young first-time voters, the paper stated.
No party leader fared well in the Opinium poll. Only 13 per cent said they approved of Nigel Farage, against 64 per cent who said they disapproved, giving him a net approval rating of -51 per cent, worse than that of Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg, who scored -44 per cent. Ed Miliband scored -18 per cent and David Cameron -6 per cent.
The Populus poll, quoted by the BBC, asked young people to name the issues that most concerned them, and found that 69 per cent said the cost of living, 62 per cent affordable housing, 58 per cent unemployment and the same proportion said the NHS. These are all issues on which the Coalition government can be said to have made the situation worse.
Exactly 50 per cent were worried about online privacy, with 45 per cent concerned about the environment, and 43 per cent worried about immigration. Tax avoidance only bothered 37 per cent and Britain’s future in the EU concerned just 34 per cent (indicating that Opinium’s finding is more or less correct).
At first glance, it seems the BBC’s report was commissioned in response to The Observer’s, reinforcing suggestions of right-wing bias in the Corporation. The indication of the number of potential voters who are still undecided tends to support this.
But the findings about young voters’ concerns suggests that any such intention has been foiled, as both polls clearly show young voters are dissatisfied with the Coalition parties and want a change.
Perhaps the most striking information for Labour – and an indication of where it has gone wrong over the past two decades – is the suggestion in the Populus poll that more than half of young people would be more likely to vote if there were more working-class candidates.
The party’s continued insistence on marginalising such members in favour of people from the same background as every other party – university graduates who have gone on to work in politics or finance – is harming its appeal to voters, it seems.
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