Seventy-three per cent of students are now registered to vote, according to new research that was exclusively released yesterday by the National Union of Students (NUS) at the Student Media Summit.
The new data shows an increase in student commitment to voting in next May’s general election compared to a similar NUS poll released in February which showed that only 33 per cent of students were registered to vote.
Of almost 1500 students surveyed, 72 per cent of respondents said that they were likely of highly likely to vote if there was a general election tomorrow, demonstrating the positive intentions of students to shape the agenda with issues that matter to them.
NUS Vice President, Raechel Mattey said:
“These figures show that young people really are interested in politics, and are becoming increasingly engaged by registering to vote. The simple fact is that if we don’t vote, we won’t have our voice heard.
“Our issues won’t matter to the people who we need to sit up and take notice. If more young people vote, politicians will have no choice but to take action and serve their interests, which is why we all need to cast our votes next May.”
Only 44 per cent of the student population voted in the last general election, which, should the 73 per cent of students’ with good intentions actually use their right to vote, suggests that the current generation of students are becoming more politically active.
The breaking of promises made by MPs in the 2010 general election could have led to widespread apathy amongst students, but instead it appears that they have utilised their anger in order to make their voices louder than before.
The research revealed that the cost of living, health and employment are the most important factors for these proactive students when deciding how to vote, with issues such as equality, transport and pensions also being of concern.
Raechel Mattey adds:
“This research is heartening as it shows that students are well on their way to being a force to be reckoned with in the general election. I think that young people are the key to fixing Britain and our democracy, which is why I’ll be campaigning for a new deal for the next general election.”
Although the increase in student engagement in politics should be celebrated, the NUS admit that there is still a lot of work to be done from now until May’s general election. In September they will launch an online hub for students unions up and down the country, with the aim of capturing, elevating and engaging student voices, not only for this election, but all year round.
The hub will include the list of 30 ‘asks’ that were voted on by students at the NUS National Conference earlier this year, giving individual unions the scope to construct their own personalised strategy based on the issues that affect the students at their university.
Scrapping letting agency fees, protecting international students, citizenship education and the reintroduction of EMA are just a few of the ‘asks’ to appear on the list.
The NUS will be offering their support to students unions to help them to think outside the box to get more and more people involved so they can see themselves as activists.
If we, as students, fail to use our right to vote in May, we fail to give ourselves a voice. By becoming more politically engaged the whole year round we increase the likelihood of passing this proactive attitude onto the next generation of students in order to make it the cultural norm. We become a demographic whose opinions matter, and whom politicians have no choice but to listen to and prioritise. In the words of NUS, ‘we are the change’.
If you haven’t already, then register to vote online at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote