With a general election due later this year, how will Cambridge students vote? If we indeed do represent the future of the nation, what is the political mood like in the lecture halls?
With this in mind, The Cambridge Student (TCS) decided to survey students' voting intentions, as well as affiliations to political clubs. The poll was sent out to the student body via each college's Communications Officer, with hundreds of students taking part. The result was a sharp split between colleges, with some leaning towards the Liberal Democrats, and others towards the Conservatives.
None of the colleges surveyed had a Labour majority. Trinity had the strongest Labour vote, at 37.5%, despite the fact that the Tories carried the College with about 50% of the vote. Churchill had the second largest Labour percentage, at 29.4%. Their weakest colleges were Jesus and Robinson, with 0.0% and 7.1% respectively.
Winning just under half the colleges surveyed, the Liberal Democrats performed particularly well amongst Cambridge students. Whether this can be attributed to Cambridge being generally a strong Lib Dem seat or the nature of students as a political demographic group is open to interpretation. Despite its considerably left-wing tradition, King's College students opted to support the Liberal Democrats, with 36.1% of the vote. The College saw the highest turnout in the survey, with over one hundred people participating. Only 13.4% of King's students voted Tory, a low only beaten by the Conservative vote at Churchill, stagnating at 11.8%. The Liberal Democrats swept Robinson with a whopping 71.4%, the highest support for any party within one college.
The Conservatives carried Christ's, Corpus Christi, Gonville and Caius, Magdalene, Newnham, Queens', St John's, Trinity as well as Trinity Hall. Ironically, both Christ's and Trinity, boasted strong Labour percentages.
Neither had any Green voters, which indicate that Labour benefits from a low Green presence, who might otherwise whisk students away.
The Green vote was surprisingly strong in certain colleges, which was perhaps a factor splitting the left-wing vote at colleges such as King's, where 20.1% of surveyed students would vote Green.
Their strongest showing is at Pembroke, where the party had an astonishing 26.3% of the vote, cutting deeply into the Labour vote which comprised only 5.3% in the College.
Trinity Hall come third in the Green tally, where the party managed to lay claim to 15.4% of students participating in the poll.
The only two BNP votes from the entire student body came from Magdalene College. Nick Hobbs, JCR Vice-President, commented:
"Whether or not these ballots were cast in jest, how individuals vote is a personal choice and it is not the place for a college or a JCR to comment on this."
Other factors emerged from the survey: colleges further from the centre are far more likely to vote Liberal Democrat, whereas small, central colleges such as Corpus Christi and Trinity Hall favoured the Conservatives.
Colleges that preferred the Lib Dems over the Tories generally also boasted higher turnout, indicating political zeal. If all colleges had been combined the Lib Dems would have won by a considerable margin. This contrasts with the fact that the Cambridge University Conservative Association (CUCA) currently boasts larger membership than either the Cambridge Universities Labour Club (CULC) and the Cambridge Student Liberal Democrats (CSLD).
TCS was able to contact Gavin Rice, chairman of CUCA, for comment on results of the survey:
"The fact that the Conservatives have gained such popularity in traditionally left-wing Cambridge shows that students realise the severity of the economic catastrophe Britain faces, and that Labour's total refusal to look facts in the face is no longer fooling anybody.
People everywhere, especially students, are fed up with corruption, authoritarianism and the stagnant political system.
Brown has shot himself in the foot by returning to Labour's traditional tactic - that of class-war rhetoric - when in desperation. This is unhelpful and misleading when the UK needs sensible, level-headed policies to get it back on track. It's great that people no longer feel that ‘Conservative' is a dirty word, that we as a party have it in for the working man, or that young people have no reason to be Conservatives. It really is a breath of fresh air."
Regarding the survey George Owers, head of the Cambridge Universities Labour Club, had only this to say: "A small self-selecting sample reveals, I suggest, absolutely nothing."
"Proper polls weight parts of the population in question by all sorts of relevant criteria. If you want a revealing or meaningful poll, then commission a polling agency or try to get someone to do it who knows how to conduct a methodologically credible survey."
Mr Owers is at Jesus College, where Labour garnered no votes.
While Cambridge colleges of course only account for a tiny fraction of the population, nationwide they represent a strong demographic group, some 2 million strong.
It has been suggested that students over the country might be motivated by the same issues.
Wes Streeting, President of the National Union of Students, had raised this point: "In many seats up and down the country the student vote can make a decisive difference. Through this campaign we hope to remind students of the power they hold and remind candidates of the danger of not taking our votes seriously. Our message to candidates is simple, vote for us or pay the price."
"Our list of key student seats should make the point particularly clearly.
Elections have been won and lost by the votes of students before and it will happen again.
"It is clear that a rise in fees would be deeply unpopular across the country. Only 12 % of the public think raising fees should even be on the table.
"As no mainstream political party has a clear policy on fees, it is down to individual candidates to take a stand and sign our pledge."
Disclaimer: Downing College, Fitzwilliam College, Homerton College, Peterhouse and St. Catharine's College chose not to distribute the TCS Election Survey. We regret that we were unable to transmit it to Girton college, Murray Edwards as well as Sidney Sussex College.
Pembroke: 26.3% Green vote
9 colleges voted Conservative
8 colleges voted Liberal Democrat
2 students voted BNP
Most participants: King's
Cambridge Universities Labour Club comment:
Cambridge Universities Labour Club exists to unite and mobilise Cambridge students who believe in democratic socialism and social democracy. We are a broad church, welcoming all of those on the democratic left who share our principles of solidarity, equality and social justice. We are affiliated to the Labour Party, but we maintain an independent stance towards its national policies. We are also affiliated to the Co-operative Party, and committed to its values of mutualism and social responsibility.
We are united by our belief that the only way to practically and justly implement leftist policies, rather than talk about them, is through the parliamentary means of the Labour Party. To this end, we campaign for the election of Daniel Zeichner as an independently minded Labour MP for Cambridge, emphasising that the choice at the coming General Election is between a viciously reactionary Tory government and a basically decent, albeit imperfect, Labour government.
Cambridge University Conservative Association comment:
CUCA serves not only to represent the Conservatives in Cambridge; as well as providing this very important voice it serves an even more vital function. As a fully independent Association we focus on the free expression of ideas by our members, rather than toeing the Party line or functioning as a wing of the ‘Cameron Youth'. CUCA's long history of independence and intelligent reflection have rendered us distinct from other Conservative youth organisations and the modern-day ‘Conservative Future'. As such we have historically been respected as a recruitment ground for tomorrow's Conservative thinkers, movers and shakers, not merely as a source of leafleters for the Party or future political researchers. Our distinguished alumni such as Michael Howard, Kenneth Clarke, Michael Portillo and Leon Brittan are a testament to this.
As well as our political and intellectual dimension, CUCA strives to provide a vibrant, affordable, open and occasionally silly social scene, including our infamous Port & Cheese parties, free Gin & Tonic evenings and our Termly Chairman's Dinner. Our relaxed attitude makes us the friendliest and most laid-back political group in Cambridge. We seek to provide the kinds of social event not readily available elsewhere, and we like to think it reflective of CUCA's character that our parties are usually both cheaper and less noisy and sticky than a night out at Cindies (fun though that can be). We aim to make the fustier, sillier aspects of Cambridge life available to people of all backgrounds. CUCA provides a hub in which people with shared interests and views can meet, mix, chat, debate and have fun.
Cambridge Student Liberal Democrats comment:
Cambridge Student Liberal Democrats, CSLD, is the most active campaigning organisation in Cambridge. Our members strike a balance between campaigning for the Liberal Democrats and Julian Huppert in Cambridge, discussing politics and enjoying ourselves! CSLD offers so many different activities. We have regular canvassing and campaigning sessions where our members get experience of hands-on election campaigning. We are constantly in touch with the local Liberal Democrats discussing national and local politics, and how we can improve it. We meet with key national figures; for example, Nick Clegg is coming to visit Cambridge for a Q&A on the afternoon of the 25th of February at Trinity Hall, and Vince Cable is coming to speak to on the 4th of March.
When we find the time around campaigning, we have fun debating issues and discussing politics, with regular Pizza and Politics evenings, and our Annual Dinner later this term. One of the best evenings is always cross-party drinks when we discuss all things political with the other parties!
Getting involved with CSLD is so easy, and it's a great way to meet new people, make new friends and get real hands-on experience of election campaigning.