The youth vote is important – meaning the Coalition is in trouble

The results: The Observer published the results of the Opinium poll in graphic form, making it easier for all of us to digest. The rise of actress Emma Watson as an opinion-former after her speech on feminism to the United Nations shows the influence of high-profile celebrities who take an interest.

The results: The Observer published the results of the Opinium poll in graphic form, making it easier for all of us to digest. The rise of actress Emma Watson as an opinion-former after her speech on feminism to the United Nations shows the influence of high-profile celebrities who take an interest.

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.

Now, why would a party leader with such low ratings as Ed Miliband be ignoring this?

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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9 thoughts on “The youth vote is important – meaning the Coalition is in trouble

  1. Rupert Mitchell (@rupert_rrl)

    That is good news Mike, but I am ashamed to realize that most age groups simply vote for the party that will give them the best (whether deserved or not) benefits instead of considering what is fair for all. My main concern right now is for people being sanctioned unfairly (unjustly) by the DWP and for those people who are unable to work due to physical and or mental illnesses. I am a staunch Labour supporter and I feel that we have the best chance of fairness under Labour.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      It’s logical when you think about it. People vote for what they see as the best deal for themselves, in the belief that everybody else is doing the same. This belief system fails when the promises on offer are lies – as we discovered when the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats wheedled their way into office as the Coalition.

  2. HomerJS

    I think the interesting thing is how voting may change in the future. In the past people have often started off on the left and then moved to the right as they got older, and presumably had more investment in the status quo (own house, better job). For those that choose to look you can see that younger people have less than their parents had, and that the progression steps (such as buying a house) are moving to later and later ages. I think that this may have an effect on this progression from left to right, meaning that people will vote Labour for longer for example. This gets more interesting when you think about how things are still changing. People rely on parental help to get on the property ladder, but as people buy a house at a later age it will likely mean that their potential to help their children will also be delayed, meaning people buy a house even later in the future (and so on). There may also be changes in the labour market. We can see signs of people losing their job in their 50s and either not working again before retirement or settling for low paid and insecure employment. This will also affect their ability to a) pay off their mortgage and b) help their children to buy a house. Remember that there will be many people who have a 30 year mortgage, where they just pay the interest for the first 5 years before then starting to pay it off. The later you buy your house, the closer to retirement you will be when you pay it off. Some people may rely on the increasing value of their home, but as house prices increase so do the gaps between your first home and the house on the next level up. With fewer opportunities to progress and earn more, people may move less often up the housing ladder. Borrowing against the value of your house might be a bit risky when your capacity to earn is becoming more restricted. If the parents struggle it will have an impact on their children, as help from your parents may no longer be an option, and if you are buying so late that you will need to work beyond retirement age to be able to pay it off may not be so attractive, to either the buyers or their banks! Of course the housing market may collapse, but the effect on voting patterns in the meantime could be very interesting.

    1. Smiling Carcass

      I must be an odd sort- I started on the left and have moved ever lefter!

      But then, never owned my own home, never had any desire to do so and believe home ownership is wrong.

      Just as private ownership of the utilities and the means of production is wrong- because ultimately, the proletariat pays.

  3. Tony Dean

    I am astounded that 26% would vote Conservative, such a high figure, given how badly the Tories have treated the young.

  4. chopale

    Owning your own home! You don’t own it! The bank does! Your still a council tenant to the Laws of your local council! Your just branded “Different” on a bank ledger. If some one makes it to the end of the game? good luck to them.

  5. James Hunt

    The youth vote is extremely important. This government knows that. That is why they accelerated the removal of the ability for colleges and universities to register first year students under the previous head of household rule. Hundreds of thousands of disaffected students will not be able to vote next May. This could swing the result in up to 12 marginal constituencies in favour of the Tories, LibDems and UKIP.

    See: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-30366986

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