Students in Wales unaware of EU referendum date and many risk not being able to vote – new poll

Over half of university students in Wales do not know when the EU referendum is taking place, according to a new poll published today (Friday, May 20).

The poll, conducted by YouthSight for Universities UK, reveals also that, while a high proportion of students from across the UK are interested in the outcome, many risk not being able to vote because they are not registered at the address where they will be on 23 June 2016, the date of the referendum.

Almost two million UK students are eligible to vote in the June referendum and huge efforts have been made by universities and colleges across the UK to increase student voter registration numbers. The date of the referendum, however – outside of term-time – means many students who registered to vote at the recent local elections (5 May), may need to re-register if they will be at a different address on 23 June.

Across the UK, the poll reveals that only half (56%) of students registered only at their term-time address are likely to be there on polling day. A quarter (25%) who said they are registered only at their university address, confirmed they won’t be there on 23 June.

This week, universities across Wales, in a bid to help get students referendum ready, is supporting a major student registration drive led by Universities UK, the National Union of Students and the Association of Colleges. Students from across Wales will be encouraged to register, re-register or apply for a postal vote, depending on their circumstances.

The poll, also found that:

  • 73% of students in Wales were not able to name the date of the referendum
  • 63% of students Wales did not know in which month the referendum is taking place
  • Almost three quarters (69%) of students in Wales think the outcome of the referendum will have a significant impact on students’ futures
  • Only 54% of eligible students in Wales know where they will definitely be on the date of the referendum, while only 8% have applied for a postal or proxy vote.

Amanda Wilkinson, Director of Universities Wales, said: “While it is good that many students are interested in the outcome of the referendum, 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.

“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.

“With nearly two million UK students eligible to vote in the referendum, it is vital that they have all the necessary information to make sure they can take part in this hugely important decision.”

Beth Button, President of the National Union of Students Wales, said: “The EU referendum is a once in a generation vote. 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.

“We are calling on all students to think ahead about where they will on 23 June and to register or re-register at that address. 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.”

People have until June 7, 2016 to register if they want to vote in the EU referendum.

Students and young people can find out more information about how to vote in the EU referendum here and can register to vote here.