Two thirds of university students don’t know when the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union (EU) is taking place, and up to 200,000 may miss out on a chance to vote, a survey has found.
Almost two million students are eligible to vote in the referendum on 23 June, but research by YouthSight for Universities UK has revealed that hundreds of thousands are unlikely to make it to the ballot box as they are unaware of when the referendum is taking place.
The June date means that the poll takes place during academic holidays, but just 56 percent of students registered to vote at their term time address expect to actually be there on the day.
A quarter of students said they definitely would not be at their term address when the vote came around.
The low percentage of correctly registered students isn’t that surprising, however, as a whopping 63 percent of students did not know when the referendum was taking place; 54 percent couldn’t even identify which month it was taking place in.
Despite this apathy, however, 72 percent said they believed the outcome would have a “significant impact” on students’ futures.
Students representatives are now launching a massive voter drive on campuses in a bid to get students to re-register at their home addresses before the June 7 cut-off date, or apply for proxy or postal votes.
“It is of real concern that so many are unaware of the referendum date and of the fact that they may have to re-register to vote at another address,” said Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK.
“From this week, universities will be scaling up their efforts to encourage students to register to vote, and to make sure they do so in the right location. It is important that students think about where they are likely to be on 23 June 2016 and also to consider registering to vote by post or by proxy.”
Richard Brooks, Deputy President of the National Union of Students, called the referendum a “once in a generation vote,” adding: “The decision made on the 23 June will impact young people and students the most as they are the ones that will live with the consequences for the longest. If students don’t want their future decided for them – it is essential that as many as possible get out and vote.
He urged “all students to think ahead about where they will on 23 June and to register or re-register at that address.”
And he advised: “If they are unsure about where they will be, students can register at both their term-time and home address, providing they only vote once. If they are going to be on holiday or are heading to Glastonbury they should apply for a postal vote by 5pm 8 June.”
With polls too close to call, voter apathy among Britain’s students could hand victory to the leave campaign as young people are far more likely to back remaining within the EU.
An Opinium poll for the Observer conducted in April found that 18-34 year olds were overwhelmingly in favour of remaining, by 53 percent to 29 percent. By contrast, results among the over 55s were almost a mirror image: 30 percent backed remaining against 54 percent who wanted to leave.
But when asked how likely, on a scale of 1-10 they were to vote, 81 percent of over 55s said they were “definitely” going to vote, against just 52 percent of 18-35 year olds.
The polling company YouGov today suggested that its online polls, which show greater support for leaving, were more accurate than other companies’ phone polls as, it said: “phone polls have too high a percentage of graduates.”