A large proportion of students have said they intend to vote tactically over Brexit in the upcoming general election, according to a new poll which shows they overwhelmingly support for Remain and Final Say.
Students voting tactically to get what they want over Britain’s departure from the European Union (EU) could make a significant difference to marginal seats across the country, experts suggest.
Pollster John Curtice has said “effective tactical voting” among Remain supporters, including students, could potentially take 10 seats from the Conservatives in the upcoming election.
A survey, published by think tank Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), shows that more than seven in 10 (71 per cent) of students polled said that Brexit could affect how they vote.
Of these, the majority (53 per cent) said they would be willing to vote tactically to achieve their preferred Brexit outcome.
Parliamentary candidates’ views towards the EU are likely to have a bigger impact on the student vote on 12 December than traditional issues like tuition fees, according to HEPI.
The YouthSight survey, of more than 1,000 undergraduates at the start of October, shows that nearly three in four (74 per cent) students believe the UK was wrong to vote to leave the EU.
Nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) said they would vote Remain if there was another referendum – and 70 per cent wanted another referendum to get the Final Say on a Brexit deal
Nick Hillman, director of HEPI, told to The Independent: “When the student vote is discussed the conversation tends to dwell on issues like tuition fees. In fact, at this Brexit-focused election candidates’ views towards the EU could be a bigger factor when students decide how to vote.”
He added that tactical voting among students, who are strongly pro-Remain and pro-Final Say, could “make a real difference” in some seats across the UK – including Canterbury, Bath and Oxford West and Abingdon.
But he warned: “The problem for students who want to vote tactically is that some of the advice on the tactical voting websites is worthless. For example, the advice for people in Cambridge is to vote either Lib Dem or Labour, which is vague to the point of uselessness.”
Professor Curtice, of Strathclyde University, told The Independent: “If there is an effective tactical voting campaign, maybe you can take 10 seats off the Tories. That is not an unrealistic target and it could knock 20 off the majority. If we get to the polls being a bit closer than they are – then whether or not tactical voting is organised effectively among students and anybody else – then yes it could make a difference.”
He added that tactical voting on its own is unlikely to turn a Conservative majority of 50 into a hung parliament – but it could turn a Tory majority of 10 into a hung parliament.
Stephen Fisher, professor of political sociology at the University of Oxford, said some Conservative seats in university towns and cities, like Loughborough, could be lost because of tactical voting.
Even Boris Johnson could have a fight on his hands in the constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip, where Brunel University is based, as he secured only a 5,024 majority in 2017.
Professor Fisher said: “Uxbridge is relatively marginal. It is a mixture of having a decent sized student population who might vote there and the ethnic diversity of that constituency and whether the Remain supporters will contribute to a big risk for Boris Johnson.”
Zamzam Ibrahim, president of the National Union of Students (NUS), said: “The student vote is most powerful when it’s tactical and coordinated. Students are very aware of this and will be looking to make the right choices over all issues. The NUS will be working every minute, up to polling day to get students registered to vote and ready and able to make informed decisions at the ballot box.”