New report suggests that students could tip the balance of power at GE15 provided they register to vote

New report suggests that students could tip the balance of power at GE15 provided they register to vote

And that could mean trouble for Clegg in Sheffield Hallam

Following the Lord Ashcroft Sheffield Hallam poll last week which had the LD leader with a lead of just 3% over LAB there’s a new analysis of student voting patterns by Oxford’s Stephen Fisher suggesting that Nick Clegg and other Lib Dems could be vulnerable in seats where there are a lot of students on the register.

The British Election Study Internet Panel Survey shows a collapse in LD support among students, from 44% in 2010 to just 9% now with LAB the main beneficiary.

Students are only half as likely to support UKIP as the rest of the population 7% versus 15%. The report notes that parliamentary seats with a high density of students are ‘safe’ seats, which limits their electoral power. However, at the next election, differential voting behaviour by students could alter the outcome in up to a dozen seats the big one being Sheffield Hallam.

What could theoretically help the LD leader is the shift from household electoral registration to the new system of Individual Electoral Registration. This impacts on students more than other groups because they are highly mobile, often live at two addresses during the year and are ill-served by the transitional arrangements to the new registration system.

    Some higher education institutions however, notably Sheffield University, have linked their electronic enrolment systems to the compilation of the electoral roll. Early indications suggest this has been a successful way to reduce the impact of the change in registration. It also adds to Mr. Clegg’s re-election challenge.

A key factor in Hallam is what Tory voters do. At GE10 they accounted for 23.5% of the vote in Hallam and some might just be receptive to a tactical message by the yellows. After all the big objective for the blues on May 7th is to stop the reds from chalking up enough gains to put EdM into Downing Street.

In fact the more that Labour, which just got 16% of the vote in 2010, look set to take the seat the more it could encourage efforts to stop them. A high profile student campaign against Clegg might be what saves him.

PaddyPower has LAB at 7/2 to win the seat.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble

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