Nick Lowles says the European elections will be so close that young voters can have a decisive role in stopping extreme candidates getting in.

HOPE not hate has been using polling to try and understand what is happening in the upcoming EU elections, and today we’re publishing a new ‘State of the Race’ memo, focused on young people. The memo is based on polling done in conjunction with the National Education Union, and we’re grateful for their support.

I am going to use this blog post to summarise some of the key findings in the poll, but here’s a spoiler alert: it all comes down to turn out, so if you’re registered to vote, you need to sort that out. Now: Gov.uk.register-to-vote

Right, with that out of the way, here’s what we thought was most interesting about this poll (but feel free to read the memo yourself!)

  • Only 41% of young people say they are certain to vote in the European Parliamentary elections of any group. The Electoral Commission has recently stated that a third of all young people are not registered to vote.
  • The youth vote could make a difference between which candidates get elected in each region. In the North West, for example, the youth vote will be decisive in deciding whether or not ‘Tommy Robinson’ is elected. Based on current polling, 2% or less separates parties for the final seat available in 9 of the 12 regions. In the North East, for example, youth turnout could decide if Labour or Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party get the final seat.
  • Young people overwhelmingly reject divisive far-right figure ‘Tommy Robinson’ (Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) standing for election as an independent in the North West region, with just 7% of voters aged 18-24 saying they view him favourably or very favourably, compared to 45% who say they have an unfavourable or very unfavourable view of him.
  • Meanwhile, more than two-thirds of young people (69%) have an unfavourable or very unfavourable view of Nigel Farage, currently leading the Brexit Party, compared to 19% who view him favourably or very favourably.
  • Young voters cite Brexit (43%), the environment (36%) and health (28%) as the top three issues facing themselves and their families.

With the Euro elections fast approaching and the voter registration deadline on Tuesday, it’s urgent that the main political parties engage with young people, who could make the difference between electing extremists and not. Tiny swings in each region could make the difference in almost three-quarters of the Euro seats.

Young people clearly have a highly negative view of extremists candidates like ‘Tommy Robinson’, but it’s not enough to dislike him from the comfort of your sofa. If turnout is really low, he could win. Here’s the bottom line: anyone who doesn’t want that to happen needs to register to vote before next Tuesday.

As I mentioned, this polling was done jointly with the National Education Union. The NEU’s joint General Secretary responded to the poll by saying this:

“We hope all candidates will think about the fact that education shows up within the top four most important issues for young people. This poll shows young people care deeply about Brexit but also about education. The NEU is confident that education will prove to be one of the major issues in the next election. What’s interesting is how many young people in this poll connect the Brexit debates to the legitimisation of prejudice towards migrant and BME families. The rise in racism must be challenged by us all. We need to use both education and all public debate to counter the ideas which drive racism and racist violence.”

I want to finish up with two things you can do to help in this campaign:

  1. Register to vote, or if you have already, ask people you to know. There’s no harm in checking! People who have moved house are especially likely to not be registered. Ask them!
  2. Join the #VoteNotHate campaign. We’ll be out leafleting in key areas of the North West over the course of the campaign. Commit to campaign here, and an organiser will be in touch.

And don’t forget, please feel free to download the full ‘State of the Race’ memo.