Labour narrowly ahead in Bristol student poll

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With the general election nine days away, Labour have narrowly won Epigram’s poll of over 950 University of Bristol students, Sarah Newey reports.

The poll has revealed that 30% of students intend to vote Labour, with the Conservatives and Greens second and third, with 26% and 20% respectively. The Liberal Democrats received support from 16% of student voters, while just 6% of Bristol students back UKIP.

Until recently,Bristol West had been tipped to narrowly remain Lib Dem. But a poll by Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft, well-known for polls in the UK's key marginal seats,put Nick Clegg's party down in third place, behind Labour and the Greens. The Ashcroft poll had Labour on 38%, the Greens on 25% and the Lib Dems on 20%.

Similarly, The Telegraph predicted Labour would regain the constituency, which it held between 1997 and 2005.

The drop in support for the Lib Dems among students appears to a key threat to their chances of retaining the seat. While a substantial number of those at Bristol backed the Lib Dems in 2010,many feel let down after the trebling of tuition fees under the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition.

Bristol West has been heralded by The Guardian as one of the ten constituencies in which students have the most influence. Our poll also revealed that 69% of students will be casting their votes in Bristol West, while 68% thought their votes would mean more at University compared to at home.

This suggests that students are largely aware of the marginal nature of Bristol West and how much impact they can have on the outcome.

Kate Dickinson, of the Green Party Society, told Epigram that she thought the Greens were capitalising upon falling student support for the Lib Dems:

‘Especially among students, the Lib Dems have lost a lot of support. I think the Green Party’s ideas really speak to students and young people who feel let down by current politics.’
While that the Greens have been polling under 10% nationally, they have repeatedly polled more among Bristol students. But this is to be expected, with Bristol West pinpointed as one of the constituencies that they are hoping to win in the election.

And a MyBristol poll in January had suggested that over 40% students had intended to vote Green, around double the amount that expressed the intention to vote Green in Epigram’s latest poll.

YouthSight have suggested that Labour, followed by the Conservatives, are also the most popular parties nationally among students - with 35% and 25% respectively. YouthSight have found that the national student Green vote has dropped from 28% in February to 15% in April.

Their polls also suggest that there will be a rise in student turnout from 66% to 69%, which would buck the traditional trend of decline.

Across the UK, the Conservatives and Labour are neck and neck, polling at 34% and 33% respectively (BBC Poll of Polls, 28 April).

The key question seems to be who will form a post-electoral alliance (whether a coalition, minority government or confidence-and-supply arrangement), rather than who who will an overall majority.

Max Austin, from Bristol University Conservative Association, said:

‘Nationally, while the Conservatives are faring fairly well, the election is simply too hard to call. We think that the Tories will get the most seats but this is no guarantee of a majority.’

Matty Bacon, Bristol Labour Students co-chair, also commented on the poll results:

‘Why do I think Labour are winning the poll? Because students have had enough of the coalition government and they recognise the need for real change. In Bristol West they have the opportunity to get rid of a government minister who had voted with the Conservative at every turn including the bedroom tax and the Health and Social Care Act.’

Nonetheless, a Guardian poll has suggested that the Lib Dems will hold the seat. Stephen Williams has been the MP for Bristol West since 2005, and is defending a majority of 11,000.

Bristol Liberal Democrat Society remain confident of retaining the constituency,

‘It’s well known that the typically hard-working Liberal Democrat MPs often command a loyal following in their own constituencies, and most commentators are therefore predicting that the Lib Dems will perform much better than the national polling would suggest.’

But students make up 25% of the constituency, and appear to show far less support for the party than they did in 2010. Our poll suggests that, just as it was students that effectively won them the seat in 2010, it could be students that cost Williams his chances of a third term next week. It will be interesting to see what happens come 7 May.

Featured Image/ Flickr /Adrian Scottow

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