Student Vote Irrelevant

The Labour Party have been veering away from the line that No Deal needs to be taken off the table in order for them to back an election. Their moving goalposts started to incredulously claim that No Deal needed to be taken off the table from January, or even from the end of Boris’ deal’s implementation period. Both dates well after the election would have taken place…

The new excuse reason Labour are citing as to why they would really love an election but just can’t back one whenever it is offered is that students will be out of term time. Well, some students. Who would have thought a party that just abolished its student wing would be so concerned about students voting…

Last year there were 1,885,000 UK students studying in higher education, of these some 1,442,000 were studying full-time. Labour’s current vote share is the lowest Youthsight have recorded since April 2015. Labour’s popularity has been in continual decline since peaking in February 2018 when they enjoyed more than a 70% share of the student vote.

Polling guru Chris Hanretty posits that assuming (for sake of argument) that turnout is 10% lower amongst students “out of term” compared to in term – which he says “would be a big effect: three times bigger than any get-out-the-vote effects we know of, that would mean that we would see between 144,200 and 188,500 fewer votes in an election where all universities are out-of-term.”

Hanretty calculates:

This means that an out-of-term election would cost the Labour Party between 54,796 and 71,630 votes (i.e., the figures from before, multiplied by 38%). By the same logic, an out-of-term election would cost the Conservative party between 17,304 and 22,620 votes. This means that an out of term election would decrease the Labour margin over the Conservatives by between 37,492 and 49,010 votes, or between 0.12% and 0.15% of the 2017 vote.

Hanretty’s figures show the partisan impact of changes in turnout due to an election being called when *all* students are out of term is minimal. This is in any case irrelevant because most universities are still in term in the week covering December 9 – 13…

An even bigger problem with Labour’s new argument is that all but a tiny handful of students will still be at university by the time of the election, and no university in or near a Tory held marginal is among them. David Kernohan at Wonkhe has visualised the numbers. For almost all students, term ends on December 16, four days after Boris’ proposed election date…

“As can be seen, the most common date for the first day of the Christmas holidays is Monday 16 December, but a sizable minority, primarily in Scotland, finish a week later on 23 December. Those finishing earlier than 16 December are primarily small, specialist providers – along with the famously short-termed Oxford and Cambridge.”

Beyond the obsessing over dates, a more fundamental point is being missed. YouGov found that just 25% of students vote in their university constituencies in any case. The overwhelming majority vote at home, making the term time discussion fairly irrelevant to most students…

As Queen Mary professor of politics Philip Cowley pointed out, this entire argument hinges on a frankly ridiculous point: “the basic idea that we can only have elections while students are in term.” This rules out at around one third of the year as unsuitable to hold democratic events. It’s bonkers but Labour are grasping at flimsy election dodging straws, and at this point any excuse will do…

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mdi-timer October 29 2019 @ 08:42 mdi-share-variant mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-printer
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