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Poll: 85% of students plan to vote – 10 April 2015

8 November 2016

Unite Students poll reveals university students plan to vote in huge numbers – but wonder what the point is.

A NEW survey commissioned by Unite-Students, the UK’s leading provider of student accommodation, has revealed university students plan to vote in huge numbers.

Some 85 per cent of UK students plan to cast their ballot in May’s general election, with Scottish students leading the way at 91 per cent.

That is a far higher figure than the total national turnout for the 2010 general election, which stood at just 65 per cent of the population.

But despite the huge interest in voting, students are deeply pessimistic about the likelihood of the election making their lives better. 

Two thirds think their lives will be worse – no matter what the outcome of 7 May’s vote.

Unite Students, which commissioned the poll, is the largest and most experienced provider of private university accommodation in the UK, providing a ‘Home for Success’ to over 43,000 students.

Other key findings include:

• Top issues for students are the NHS (83%) and the economy (80%) – not student fees (62%)

• David Cameron scores higher than Ed Miliband in both England and Scotland

• But Nicola Sturgeon is the runaway winner for students in Scotland at 40%

Unite Students Managing Director of Operations, Richard Smith said, “As Unite Students is the largest provider of private student accommodation in the country, we are interested in how our customers feel about issues which could have a real impact on their lives. 

“These findings will surprise many, especially the high levels of engagement in the political process. Students are clearly interested in shaping their own prospects.

“It is pleasing to see that all parties agree on the vital importance of higher education to the UK. The future for the industry remains bright.”

Fieldwork for this research was conducted by YouthSight Omnibus between 2 and 8 April, 2015. The sample consisted of 1,000 interviews with students; representative of the UK in terms of gender, course year, and university type.


1. NHS (83%)

2. Economy (80%) 

Although second on average at 80 per cent, the economy is the top scoring issue for male students

3. University Fees (62%)

Students studying non-vocational subjects are significantly more concerned by fees than those studying for a particular career.

4. Immigration (44%)

Immigration is much more of an issue for female students:  some 49 per cent of women rated it as a top issue, compared to 38 per cent amongst men.   Students from Wales and the West Midlands were the most relaxed about immigration at 34 per cent, compared to 67 per cent in Northern Ireland – by far the most concerned area.

5. Defence (18%)

Do you plan to vote?

85% ‘Yes’

91% Scots plan to vote

Northern Ireland the least – 69%

Russell Group 89%

Medics and dentistry students 95%

Reasons for saying ‘No’

Main reason: Lack of knowledge or interest – 57%

Second reason: Lack of belief in the system – 43%

Selection of reasons for not voting: 

 “A party for Northern Ireland not shackled by identity issues!”

“More information that is put in more simple terms and doesn’t bore you”

“More impact from our vote – nothing ever seems to change.”

“When politicians don’t lie and my vote won’t make a difference to the corrupt government anyway.”

“More diversity in political parties.”

Scotland has the most cheerful students, with 46 per cent saying their lives will be better as a result of the election. Northern Ireland is the dourest at 17 per cent.

Male students were more hopeful than their female colleagues, with 41 per cent feeling the vote would make their lives better compared to 32 per cent amongst women.

Which Leader Would Make the Best Prime Minister?

David Cameron


Top: 36%

Cameron also achieved the only outright majority amongst Architecture, Building and Planning students.

Selected highlights:

Architecture, building and planning: 58%

History and Philosophy: 14%

Scots: 23% 

Eastern: 49% 

18-year-olds: 46% 

Ed Miliband


Second: 30%

Scottish students put him at just 18% – behind David Cameron. 

Selected highlights:

E social grade: 41%

History and Philosophy: 45%

North West: 39%

Scots: 19%

Eastern: 21%

Natalie Bennett


Third: 13%

Selected highlights:

Creative arts and design: 30%

North West and Eastern: 4%

North East: 22%

Nicola Sturgeon


Fourth: 8%

Sturgeon – considered the outright winner in the TV debate by many – trumps UKIP’s Nigel Farage as the most divisive politician for students.

Selected highlights:

South East: 1%

Scotland: 40%

Media students: 0%

All subjects relating to medicine: 11%

Nick Clegg

Liberal Democrats

Fifth: 7%

Just 4% of students in the North West – where his Sheffield constituency is based – rate him as the best leader.

Selected highlights:

Eastern: 15%

North West: 4%

Vets and Agriculture: 0% 

Architecture, Building and Planning: 0%

Media: 13%

Nigel Farage


Sixth: 5%

Very steady support hovering around 5% in lots of areas and demographics.

Selected highlights

London 2%

South East and North West: 7%

E social grade: 10%

Vets and Agriculture: 18%

Architecture, Building and Planning, and Media: 0%

Leanne Wood 

Plaid Cymru

Seventh: 1% Wood was the clear looser. 

Selected highlights:

She polled a zero in several areas and groups

Only 5% in Wales and West Midlands.