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BBC Newsbeat First Time Voter Poll

A public opinion poll on behalf of BBC Newsbeat.

Date Published: 15 Apr 2010

Categories: Politics | Public and communities | Social | UK


Politicians have a long way to go to win over sceptical young first time voters ahead of what could be the closest general election in more than 30 years suggest a survey for BBC Radio 1’s Newsbeat.

Just one in three (33%) 18-22 year olds polled by ComRes say they will definitely use their vote on May 6, far lower than the 65% figure* for the British population as a whole.

Asked why they will stay at home, 44% say they are not interested, 13% say they do not want to vote and 5% say they do not trust politicians.

"I am not sure what makes one party different from another," said 19 year old Christina from East Ham in London. "It just feels like one person cannot really make a difference."

Economy 'key issue'

The survey also suggests young voters see money and jobs as by far the most important issues facing Britain today.

Almost two thirds of those polled picked the economy, employment, taxation or debt as the key election battleground.

"The most important thing for me is getting back in to work," said 22-year-old Rich, also from East Ham, the constituency in Britain with the highest number of first time voters.

"I have been unemployed for so long I've dropped from being a skilled worker to an unskilled worker. I am just looking for some support and some education to get me back into a job."

"I haven't decided who I am going to vote for this year but I will vote. I think it is important for everyone to have their say."

31% of first time voters surveyed say David Cameron has the best ideas for growing Britain's economy compared with 22% for Gordon Brown and 8% for Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg.

The poll suggests the Conservative leader is winning over young working class voters with his ideas on the economy while wealthier young middle class voters are more likely to favour Gordon Brown. The first time voters polled in social groups wealthier social groups AB (23%) and C1 (24%) are more likely to say that they think Gordon Brown has the best ideas for growing Britain’s economy, when compared to first time voters in social groups C2 (17%) and DE (18%) who are more likely to say the same of David Cameron. 

Expenses scandal

The survey also suggests the scandal over MPs' expenses could have a impact on first time voters come May 6.

40% say they have less trust in politicians than a year ago. More than half of those blame expenses, with another one in ten pointing the finger at bad publicity and media coverage.

"They all look like tired old men," said 20 year old Prejay. "It just feels like they are more interested in the way things look than the way things really are."

Almost a quarter of those polled say they are more interested in the policies of smaller parties than they were twelve months ago. Of those half say they are taking more notice of Green party ideas, another quarter say the same for the BNP and one in five say they are more interested in the policies of UKIP.

"I am definitely going to vote this year. I want to make a difference and show I exist," said 20 year old Rob.

"It's about jobs and crime for me. You look around and see youths dealing drugs and people out of work. That's just not right."

Commenting on the findings, the editor of BBC Radio 1's Newsbeat Rod McKenzie said: "Our poll suggests there's still a big disconnect between politics and first time voters - and for some apathy has turned to anger too over the MPs' expenses scandal."


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