Skip to content
The UK's only independent think tank devoted to higher education.

Do students swing elections? Registration, turnout and voting behaviour among full-time students

  • 1 December 2014
  • By Stephen D. Fisher and Nick Hillman
  • HEPI number 70

It is often said that students are a particularly powerful group of voters.

The authors of Do students swing elections? Registration, turnout and voting among full-time students? set out to test this assertion, which turns out to be half true.

A number of factors must be present for the student voice to be heard at the ballot box.

To make a difference, students must:

  • register to vote;
  • turn out to vote;
  • be concentrated within marginal constituencies; and
  • behave differently from other voters.

Detailed analysis of electoral data suggests full-time students could determine the outcome in only around ten constituencies. But that is conceivably enough to swing the overall result of the 2015 general election.

The pamphlet also considers the impact of Individual Electoral Registration on students, and investigates what higher education institutions can do to protect and enhance the democratic voice of students.