Recently released data from the polling organisation YouGov shows the extent of young people’s willingness to back Labour in the recent General Election, with the party enjoying over three times as much support from 18-24-year-old voters as the Conservatives – amongst 18 and 19 year olds, support was even stronger with 66% opting for Labour compared with just 19% for the Tories.
According to YouGov, 64% of students voted for Labour compared to just 19% for the Conservatives. This was a clear reflection of Labour’s manifesto commitment to end university tuition fees – the average amount of debt acquired per student has now reached more than £32,000 with a third of students considering their courses did not provide value for money (Guardian 08/06/17) Labour also pledged to restore Education Maintenance Allowances (EMAs) for post-16 students, to make Further Education courses free and to upgrade the quality of vocational education and apprenticeships.
At the other end of the age group, things could not have been more different, as almost 70% of 70 year olds voted Conservative and 58% of those between 60-69. Participation levels were also much higher amongst older age groups, with 57% of 18-19 year olds turning out, compared to 84% of those 70 plus. YouGov also found that differences in the way various occupational classes voted were becoming much less significant and the tendency to vote Conservative declined as educational levels increased –with Labour enjoying a 15 % lead amongst graduates.
Young people’s support for Labour was not just the result of its policies or the popularity of Jeremy Corbyn – the party was far ahead of the Tories in its ability to use social media, so as to help neutralise the attacks on Corbyn by the official media. It was also the result of major efforts by student unions to increase registration, handing in hundreds of registration forms from their members just hours before the deadline.
With a highly volatile electorate, Labour will not take this support for granted and with dreadful employment prospects for young people –even for those with degrees – it will need to develop clear policies that address job market insecurities, as well as continuing to improve educational opportunity. Nevertheless, the YouGov data provides many positives.