Are university seats different?

Though a Conservative landslide was always on the cards, something about the 2019 election result has unsettled the higher education sector.

The infamous Michael Gove quote about experts, and very visible remain advocacy during the 2016 referendum campaign, has positioned the sector outside of the mainstream of UK culture. Now an internationalist popular left-wing party has been soundly beaten in a general election, and it feels like the university is a steadfast expression of the “elite” that other activists and politicians like to position the country against.

In the Blair years, higher education was linked to aspiration, and the much maligned (and now achieved) 50 per cent participation target was about making university something everyone could have a chance to do – the years of Johnson and May added more than a tempering of betrayal to that mix. University aspirations, or a university in a constituency, perceptibly changes the feel of a local area – but is this change evidence of cultural influence or just a volume of graduates? With 2019 very much a watershed election, could the preferences of university staff and students be having an impact in local trends?

Turnout and majority

Are constituencies with universities in likely to see changes in the size of the majority of the winning party, or changes in voter turnout?

[Full screen]

[full screen]

No. Turnout is down on 2017 (with a wet December day certainly playing a part in this trend). Intriguingly, turnout fell more in seats now held by Labour, and less in seats held by the SNP. SNP seats, too, saw a polarisation effect – the majority is higher for the winning party on a higher turn out. Conservative seats tended towards a falling turnout and a rise in polarisation.

But there was no way of associating “university seats” with these trends. Behavior was indistinguishable from non-university seats. More generally, if you are looking for an “anyone but the tories” get-the-vote-out pattern in any seat in England you will look in vain. Like other elections before it, 2019 was not the tactical voting election.

Generational issues

One common idea during the campaign was that non-Conservative parties were more attractive to younger people. I’ve been able to plot the proportions of each generation in each constituency, and then split by 2019 winning party.

You can see that the difference here is stark, particularly when considering labour held seats. And for generation Z (18-24) and millennial (25-34) heavy seats, it is those with universities that dominate. A complicating factor is that seats with large numbers of younger people do tend to have universities in them – though if you remove a few outliers the parties look a lot more similar if you remove university seats from the plot.

[Full screen]

Universities and “the Brexit election”

In the early hours of Friday morning, many on the Labour side were repeating the idea (first suggested by Sky News) that the rejection of Labour was all about a desire for Brexit. Universities being famously anti-Brexit, you’d think you’d see a difference between constituencies with or without a load of students and academics working in them. You’d be wrong.

While there is a clear party difference – super Brexity seats tend to be strongly Conservative, super Remain-y seats tend to be strongly labour and SNP – there is not a clear difference between university seats and others.

[Full screen]

Young participation

Is there a wider divide between seats where young people are likely to attend university and seats where there are not? One clear correlation I spotted was a negative one between the swing towards the Conservatives in seats that now have a conservative MP and POLAR young participation rates.

[Full screen]

While all kinds of seats can and do return Conservative MPs, the full-throated acclamation tends to be in places where few young people will attend universities. Whether the Conservative party have successfully appealed to an anti-intellectual mindset is probably a step further than this data can take us – but it certainly makes for uncomfortable reading when the ruling party is disproportionately popular among those whose young people will never earn a degree.

2 responses to “Are university seats different?

  1. Having witnessed the ‘buying’ of student votes by certain student union soc’s, and false promises for ‘free stuff’ (nothings ‘free’) from labour, it was unsurprising that University seats were the few bloody Red spots across the Blue rinse South coast. Most s-too-dense have little realisation that one of the realities of life beyond university, ‘taxes’, would have had to have been raised massively, to pay for the promised ‘free stuff’. To a degree Bliar (sp!) and co have succeeded in expanding the left wings influence beyond their wildest dreams, with most universities resembling indoctrination centres adding the final polish to the young socialists the earlier levels of education have prepared.

    When/IF they ever grow up some may realise and rebel when they realise they are little more than expendable fools/tools that those who crave power see as a means to an end. Having grown up in a communist household, and having the values of communism inculcated from a young age, I rebelled. Labour, nu-labia + momentum are little different, except for their hatred of the ‘working’ classes for failing to rise and revolt in the past has now has become even more dangerous for the people of the UK and democracy, as the member for Brighton Kemptown’s rant showed they are more than happy to throw others lives away to get their way. The Fascistic ANTIFA have already started.

  2. Boomers have priced me out of home ownership…of course I voted Labour. Why would I vote for the Boomer party?

Leave a Reply