Is their shift rightwards in economic thinking causing more of them to vote Conservative? The question of what young people believe and how they vote is raised again today by YouGov findings published in the Times (£). These help to confirm the move in opinion which Mark Wallace has previously described on this site. According to the survey, more students believe that the top rate of income tax is too high and fewer than the minimum wage is too low than the rest of the population: they are also less sympathetic to wealth distribution.
Is the number backing the Party therefore rising? There was some evidence during the last Parliament that it has, but there is a very long way to go: according to Ipsos MORI, Labour led among only two age groups in May, and its biggest lead was among young voters – or Generation Y, as they are sometimes known. One of the main reasons for this is that although their economic views are shifting right, their other ones are not. YouGov finds that the top three issues for students are tuition fees, climate change and the EU. More of them believe that climate change is driven by human activity and that Britain should stay in the EU than other members of the public. It may be that the thinking and voting of students is very different from that of other young people, but this is unlikely.
In other words, YouGov provides more evidence that young voters lean economically Right but culturally Left: the grisly sight of Euro-enhanced poverty and misery in Greece has not led to them revising their view of the EU, at least yet. Indeed, it may offer a special insight into the attitudes of Generation Y. UKIP’s longing for a vanished Britain, manifested in Nigel Farage’s pinstripes-and-pints act, is out of step with most voters, and their rejection of it is manifested in the big poll lead that Yes has built up. Nowhere is it felt more sharply than among younger voters, or so the facts suggest.
For most of them as for most voters, UKIP is a party of the past and the Conservatives the party of the rich – the perception that, more than any other, is a barrier to voting Tory (see Tim Montgomerie’s The Good Right recently, and this site for many years). What can be done to change it? Readers interested in answers should revisit Chloe Smith’s carefully thought-through series on this site from last summer, and especially its concluding article. She offered three broad routes of turning the Party into Generation Y’s natural home. The first was sharper campaigning, the second better language and the third – perhaps the most important of all, on the basis of “show don’t tell” – was policy that meets their needs: jobs tax cuts, Universities reform, improving National Citizenship Service, and providing more housing.
In today’s Daily Telegraph, George Osborne and Elizabeth Truss write about building a modern economy in Britain’s countryside. In it, they touch on one the main blights to social justice in Britain – the way in which they are being locked out of the home ownership that older generations take for granted. The Chancellor clearly grasps the moral and political challenge that this represents, and will announce today more cheap countryside homes for first-time buyers. Whether these and other houses that our young people need are actually delivered is another matter. We will return to it tomorrow.