In light of the 2017 General Election, in which the youth vote became one of the defining features, Dr Stuart Fox updates us on the latest findings from the Young People and Brexit project. Using new data, he discusses whether there really was a ‘youth surge’ in votes and whether this election really was the ‘revenge of the young remainers’?
With the assistance of YouGov, WISERD have surveyed a representative sample of the British adult population and asked a range of questions about their views of and responses to Brexit – including their participation in the 2017 General Election.
Dr Stuart Fox said: “This data allows us to shed more light on the issue of how and why the young voted, and the initial suggestion is that there was indeed an impressive youth turnout: our survey estimates that 73% of under-25s reported voting.
“At first glance this is a remarkable figure, but given that this would put the turnout of the under-25s four points higher than that of the overall electorate, and is well above YouGov’s estimate of around 58% based on a much larger sample, it must be treated with scepticism.”
Dr Fox concludes: “We cannot attribute the increase in turnout between the 2015 and 2017 elections solely, therefore, to a ‘youth surge’, although that looks to have been an important factor. Moreover, despite the increase in the youth vote, we are a long way from seeing parity in the electoral participation of the youngest and oldest voters.”
Commenting for The Times, David Aaronovitch claimed that this election saw the ‘revenge of the young Remainers’. This looks questionable at face value; 63% of the under-25s in the YouGov survey voted Labour, and 20% voted Conservative, therefore more than four fifths of the youth vote, went to parties that support a ‘hard Brexit’.
The YouGov survey asked respondents whether they had voted to try and influence, support or prevent Brexit, and this appears to have been an objective for all voters (78% of those who reported voting said that they voted to influence Brexit in some way), but particularly for the young, 84% of whom voted to affect Brexit. While young Leave supporters were more likely to vote Conservative (44%) than Labour (42%), the majority of young people were Remain supporters who voted for the pro-Brexit Labour Party (69% compared with 12% voting Conservative).
Dr Fox explains: “The most likely explanation for this apparent mismatch is that even though Labour and the Conservatives have similar objectives for Brexit, the differences in approach between the two were enough to persuade many young Remainers to back Labour as the only credible alternative government. Another option is that while many young people were voting with the intention of influencing Brexit, it was secondary to other concerns that shaped their vote.”
It is clear that the 2017 General Election was successful in mobilising young people to an extent not seen for at least two decades, and this is down, in no small part, to both the issue of Brexit and a ‘youth surge’ in votes. Therefore, there could well be some truth to the claim that the prime minister has been the victim of the ‘revenge of the young remainers’.
To find out more, read our latest blog.
All figures, unless stated otherwise, are from this survey conducted by YouGov Plc. The total sample size was 5,095 adults, with fieldwork undertaken between 9th-13th June 2017. The survey was conducted online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all British adults (ie, aged 18 and over). More information about the survey is available from the authors on request.