Students could play a pivotal role is determining the result of the 2015 general election, according to research conducted by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI).

In their report, entitled ‘Do students swing elections? Registration, turnout and voting behaviour among full-time students’, the HEPI analysed how the votes of students populations in around a dozen key marginal constituencies could swing the result of next year’s election on 7 May.

The study comes as a reminder that although students only make up 3 percent of the electorate, those registered to vote and attending full-time university could define the winner of at least 12 constituencies, including the two constituencies in Brighton.

On the report’s predictions, Brighton Kemptown, which the Conservatives won from Labour with a majority of 3.1 percent in 2010, would be regained by Labour next year if a majority of it’s 15 percent student population voted on polling day.

The report also stated that given the large green vote amongst students nationally at the European elections, Brighton Pavilion’s “student population seems likely to play a pivotal role in determining whether the seat stays Green”.

The HEPI summary of the report explains how the analysis, “confirms that the student vote responds to political parties’ policies on tuition fees”.

This has resulted in the Liberal Democrats winning the majority of the student vote in the last three general elections.

However, support for Nick Clegg and his party has “collapsed” amongst the majority of the whole electorate and especially students since rescind- ing on their pre-election promises to vote against a raise in tuition fees.

The British Election Study recent found that support for the Lib Dems has fallen from 44 percent in 2010 to 13 percent in 2014. Labour and the Green Party are believed to benefit from student votes in the next election.

Brighton Pavilion along with nine other constituencies are seen to be key areas of the country where the student vote could swing the results. The report explains how student turnout at the polls could help Caroline Lucas retain her seat here.

Zoe Parkes a second year politics student is unsurprised by the findings of study: “as the younger generation is becoming more concerned with environmental issues and feel betrayed by the policies of the Liberal Democrats, especially tuition fees, students must have an increasingly important role in general elections.”

The Professor of Political Sociology at Oxford Stephen Fisher, who carried out much of the analysis for the study, described the connection between patterns in student voting and the government’s policies on student finance as “remarkable”.

However Nick Hillman, who co-authored the report and is Director of the HEPI said that the effect students could have on the election is not a certainty.

He said: “For students to make a difference, they must register to vote, turn out to vote and live in marginal constituencies”.

The study also reports that students are only half as likely to vote for UKIP than the rest of the population, with only 7 percent of students expected to vote for the anti-EU/immigration party.

 

George Leith

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