I’ve always wondered why people vote and what they base this voting on, especially when it comes to student elections. Whilst the YUSU provide their own intriguing statistics for finding comparisons for voting levels from year to year and between colleges the actual reasons behind student voting tendencies still remain a mystery; until now of course. This week Nouse sent out a small survey to find out a bit more about what you look for in your YUSU candidates in an attempt to answer the age old question; is it what you know or who you know that matters?
To establish this Nouse asked three questions: Where did you find out about the candidates’ policies? Why did you vote for the candidate(s) you chose in the election? And if you didn’t vote or voted to re-open nominations, please state your reasons why. Voters were allowed to pick as many of the responses as they felt applicable to their own case. We had 75 responses to the survey and whilst it cannot be claimed to be highly representative of student feeling it certainly provides a window into what motivates voters.
Firstly, the source of information for candidate policies: 65 per cent of replies said that respondents had looked at the YUSU website. A natural enough response considering the high level detail of policies on the site and the promotion YUSU have been doing in the past few weeks. This was followed by student and social media with 29 per cent and 25 per cent respectively. Candidate interaction on social media has been particularly high this year with many campaign pages and events being set up on Facebook and Twitter. Whilst looking carefully at policies is important for some, six respondents admitted that they hadn’t even looked at candidates’ policies before voting.
When it came to the reasons behind voting, next year’s candidates take note – our survey suggests it may be knowing people that counts. Admittedly, 68 per cent of respondents said they liked the look of the candidate’s policies, although this writer would question whether such levels of students when asked would be able to tell you the policies of a given candidate. Forty four per cent responded that they picked a candidate because they knew them personally, with a further thirty five per cent revealing votes had been cast because they knew them as a friend of a friend. This trend was not particularly surprising and sadly reinforced the stereotype that YUSU elections can be a popularity contest. These figures also beat such perennial favourites as candidates walking into lectures and posters around campus who scored 4 per cent and 20 per cent respectively. It seems that some of the old classics may be on the way out.
The third question concerned those who hadn’t felt the need to vote and was answered by 5 respondents. Responses as to why they hadn’t voted were varied, ranging from a lack of belief in the way votes were cast to disapproval over the candidates themselves. Several respondents complained about candidates going to lectures and that this had in fact put them off from voting. One person was rather unreserved in his condemnation of the candidates and wistfully reminded us “Kallum Taylor might have been a bit of a knob at times but at least he cared”.
The results of the survey are thought provoking reading; potential candidates should spend more time networking with students through social media and friends and perhaps less time trying to shout in packed lecture halls to students who have heard their speech too many times.