Election Survey Analysis: Lib Dems lose out as Cambridge divides by subject

Colm Murphy 22 April 2015

Finally, we can reveal the results of our big General Election survey – and they are absolutely fascinating.

What grabs the headlines is a huge swing in the student population away from the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats towards Labour in the student population, compared with The Cambridge Student’s 2010 survey. This is to be expected after five tough and controversial years of coalition government. The high support for the Green Party, and the very low support for UKIP will also attract attention.

Results from all survey respondents

But the survey becomes more interesting once you start digging a little deeper. We asked the 732 respondents to give us their year, subject and college as well as voting intention. Of course, caveats should be made. Mainly out of necessity, our poll is a small sample out of the thousands of Cambridge University students, and the survey was an opt-in, which may encourage selection bias. Furthermore, we did not open the survey to Anglia Ruskin students, who will also form a large section of the ‘student vote’ having its say on 7 May.

Still, our survey has produced striking, predictable and downright amusing results in equal measure.

In colleges and subjects where there were a large number of respondents, the majority follow the overall pattern – but there are some variations. Some colleges have followed their stereotypes so closely you almost wonder if it was done on purpose. King’s, predictably, was overwhelmingly pro-Labour, with Zeichner gaining 54% in comparison to 17% Green and 14% Liberal Democrat. Trinity College did nothing to help its reputation, racking up 58% for Tory candidate Chamali Fernando, against 18% for Labour and only 6% for the Greens.

King's College respondents

Subject electoral intentions were also fascinating. History, English and HSPS (who were all in the top five with regards to number of respondents) polled strongly for Labour: 56% of English students and 47% of History students chose Zeichner. Englings also looked kindly on the Greens, giving them 27%, whereas second for History was the Tories, at 20%.

History student respondents

Unsurprisingly, given their  relative predominance, the highest number of responses came from NatSci students, who overall favoured Lib Dem Huppert at 30% and Green Read at 24%. Economists, it seems, are currently cleaved along ideological lines, with the Tories narrowly shading the contest at 34% to Labour’s 33%.

Economics student respondents

The Labour Party won overall, but the Green Party, notably, came top for first year students – 42% of them to be precise, way ahead of Labour’s 26%. It seems freshers find Bennett’s policies more convincing than Miliband’s, although the other years seem to have found them less convincing. The Green Party also managed to lead in some colleges, such as Clare with 40%.

Voting intention of first year respondents

The Liberal Democrat incumbent Julian Huppert was beaten in most colleges, but he managed to win some, such as Jesus with 40% of the vote to Labour’s 27%. He has strong support among Cambridge’s population at large (leading by nine points in a recent poll by Lord Ashcroft), but it does appear his support among the student body has significantly fallen since he took office.

According to this survey, the coalition government has not been kind to Huppert’s Cambridge student vote. If we compare this to the situation in Clegg’s Sheffield Hallam seat, it certainly could have been a lot worse for Huppert. However, as always with these analyses, it should be stressed that this is only one poll of many.