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22 April 2010

Nick Clegg and the youth vote

Could support among younger voters vanish come polling day?

By Ian K Smith

If the Liberal Democrats manage to maintain their considerable momentum through tonight’s debate and all the way until 6 May, the youth vote will be key. According to a recent Populus poll, the third biggest party enjoys a massive 40 per cent of support amongst 25 to 34-year-olds, and similarly strong support among 18 to 24-year-olds .

That’s the good news for Nick Clegg and his party. The bad news? This support is traditionally soft — research carried out last year by the Electoral Commission showed that only 44 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds were registered to vote.

The Electoral Commission launched a campaign earlier this year to address this hole in the electoral roll. The result: over 454,000 registration forms downloaded from the About My Vote website alone.

Another half a million new voters (assuming all those forms were filled in) could have significant impact on this election, an election that may after all come down to a few thousand votes.

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The possibility of an bigger turnout, forecast by those such as Political Betting’s Mike Smithson, could see a strengthening of the under-represented youth vote, and with it an enlarged share for the Lib Dems.

And while the Obama-Clegg comparisons were always ridiculous it’s worth remembering that in 2008 the Democratic nominee won by appealing to the new electorate, not by eroding his opponents voting numbers.

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