Education Six Times More Important than Immigration for Young Voters

– First stats from 120,000 users of Verto voter choice app reveals key Election youth priorities
18-24 year olds mainly concerned with education, health and the economy – but care less about immigration
– Women more likely to cite education, health and equality as top concerns, while men are substantially more focused on the economy
– Education is the top priority for a third of under-18s, and one in five are concerned about equality – substantially higher than any other age group
– Labour scores points on health and education policies, the Tories and UKIP on the minimum wage, the Greens on universities and the environment, and the Lib Dems on transport

The first release of statistics from the Verto voter advice tool, a collaboration between cross-party think tank Demos and non-profit campaigning movement Bite The Ballot, has revealed the key issues and priorities for young people with only a week until polling day.

It shows that policy areas that have been given significant attention during the Election campaign, such as immigration and welfare, are not priorities for young people in Britain – who are largely concerned with education, health and the overall performance of the economy.

The data demonstrates clear dividing lines between men and women, with female voters more likely to cite education, health and equality as top concerns, while men tend to focus more on the economy.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, a third of under-18s using Verto were more concerned about education than any other policy issue, although one in five were most concerned about equality – substantially higher than any other age group. The data also suggests that the NHS is a key priority for older users of Verto.

Gender Divide

Women were found to be slightly more relaxed in their views about drugs (85 per cent to 76 per cent), but much stronger in their opposition to fracking (78 per cent to 63 per cent) and nuclear power stations (79 per cent to 47 per cent). They also almost universally supported the idea that big businesses should have to publish the difference between their rates of pay for male and female staff – a concept disputed by almost one in four men – and were more united in their view that applicant names should be hidden from employers to prevent discrimination (82 per cent to 68 per cent).

Age Matters

When broken down by age, there are clear policy distinctions between groups. Support for free university education peaks at 74 per cent amongst under-18s, but falls to 59 per cent amongst over-24s. There was also much stronger opposition amongst over-24s for the ‘free schools’ concept, with 91 per cent in disagreement.

Younger users generally appear to be more liberal and left-leaning than older users. For example, they are 10 per cent more likely to disagree with cuts to foreign aid for poverty-stricken countries, 12 per cent more likely to oppose nuclear weapons, and more compassionate on immigration and benefits.  A much higher proportion (71 per cent to 53 per cent) supported the Labour youth jobs policy over the Tories’ proposal, which allows for an extra six months of job-hunting before benefits are cuts.

 Winning Policies

Demos prepared the statements underpinning Verto by comparing and collating party positions across all major policy areas pertinent to the 2015 General Election.

The most popular Labour policies were the statements: “Everyone should be able to see a doctor within 48 hours” (94 per cent agree) and that “All state-school teachers should have a teaching qualification” (94 per cent agree).

The most popular policy unique to the Conservative Party and UKIP was the statement: “If you’re earning the minimum wage, you shouldn’t pay any income tax on your wages” (76 per cent agree). The Lib Dems scored highest on their pledge that young people should pay less to use the bus (74 per cent agree), while the Greens have won the most support for their promise to scrap university education fees (64 per cent agree) and to oppose fracking (71 per cent agree).

Commenting on the findings, Jonathan Birdwell, Head of Citizenship and Political Participation at Demos, said:

“With the Election only a week away, young voters could have a significant impact on polling day – if they turn out and vote. Our research consistently shows that young people are passionate about social issues and having a positive impact on society, but they’re turning away from the act of voting. By helping young people to understand how their values align with parties, Verto can help to overcome their disengagement and mobilise them to participate. These statistics provide a fascinating insight into the key priorities of young people, and go some way to explaining why young people might feel disconnected from the day-to-day political debate. They also indicate which parties are more likely to be able to count on the youth vote on polling day. All in all, we see a generation of voters with strong views and values, passionate about education and equality, who will come out for parties on May 5 if they can speak to their priorities.”

Michael Sani, CEO of Bite The Ballot, said:

“The youth vote is powerful – and as Demos’ analysis of this first crop of Verto results shows – politicians who ignore young voters’ top priorities do so at their peril. Verto has empowered over 100,000 people ahead of the Election, enabling thousands of young voters to find out which party deserves their vote on 7 May. Verto is proving that young voters do care about political issues, that they are prepared to compare the parties’ key pledges and that they will hold them accountable. Now is the time for politicians of every colour to embrace Verto, help us push forward the boundaries of digital democracy and – crucially – act on the youth pledges they’ve promised young voters if elected next week.”

Verto a voter advice tool, designed to encourage 16-24 year olds to vote in the 2015 General Election, by helping them to understand how their views and values align with parties’ policy platforms. It is a collaboration between youth democracy movement Bite The Ballot, independent cross-party think tank Demos and CTI Digital. Verto has been conceived to be simple, fast and intuitive, and accessible across multiple browsers and devices. Users are presented with a series of questions, to which they respond by swiping right or left to indicate agreement or disagreement. Demos prepared the statements by identifying parties’ stances on a wide range of common issues of campaign prominence, and linking these together into common positions. Statements were developed in consultation with an independent academic steering and advisory group, in association with the Political Studies Association and the JRSST Charitable Trust.



Sophie Gaston, Press and Communications Manager, Demos
[email protected]
ph. 0207 367 6325 (Out of Hours: 074727 45678)
Charlie Cadywould, Researcher, Demos
[email protected]
ph. 0207 367 4200