70% of students would stay in the EU, poll finds

Colm Murphy 1 December 2015

Seven out of ten students would vote to stay in the European Union, according to a new poll.

However, many are not firmly decided, and do not support lowering the voting age for the upcoming referendum.

The poll of over 1,000 full-time undergraduates was conducted by the Higher Education Policy Institute, and released on Monday.

Student support is much higher than national support for staying, which currently polls around 50%.

But students are not a lost cause for the Leave campaign. 34% had given the referendum “little” or “no” thought. First years were the least likely to stay, at 63%.

Just under half said they would be more likely to vote yes if prime minister David Cameron secured “meaningful reforms”.

Nick Hillman, Director of HEPI, said: “The headline results are unequivocal. Students back the UK remaining inside the EU by a huge majority.”

However “there is much to play for. Most students say they have not followed the debate closely and there is clearly a soft underbelly” to the Remain support.

The poll, Hillman stressed, also showed that most wanted debates, with both sides, on campus. He added that while student voting power is diluted in a general election, in a referendum it could be a “two million” block of votes.

In September, Vice-Chancellor  Sir Leszek Borysiewicz warned that if they left the EU, the UK could lose its research excellence and be left to “pick up the scraps.”

Universities UK also support staying in; they have launched a new website, called “Universities for Europe”. Both Daniel Zeichner, Cambridge Labour MP, and Julian Huppert, Lib Dem former MP, support staying in Europe.

Leader of the city council, Lewis Herbert, has argued to The Cambridge Student that: “While Britain and Cambridge could both get a better deal from the European Union, our membership is vital for everyone in Cambridge”, and highlighted human rights and environmental legislation as benefits.

The Cambridge Union Society held their Bicentenary debate in London in September on whether the “European Project has been a failure”.

Last month, the Cambridge University Conservative Association discussed Europe at their “Port and Policy” debate. The Cambridge Universities Labour Club has also recently invited two Labour politicians from both sides of the referendum to speak.

Most students believe they are registered to vote, and three quarters indicated they expected they would.

Meanwhile, only 34% of students support giving 16 and 17 year olds the vote,  compared to 44% who support the status quo.

However, in Scotland  the picture is different: 57% of students support giving under 18 year olds the vote and only 29% would change nothing.