The shy Tory effect: How being young and admitting you vote Conservative became social suicide

Publicly broadcasting your Labour support is embraced – but owning up to being a Tory gets a huge backlash


As a student, it’s hard to make it a few flicks of the thumb down your newsfeed without being inundated with condemnation of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s conservative views and the ‘no tories on my profile please’ frames. With many speculating another snap election lurks on the horizon, a hard truth remains – publicly broadcasting your Labour support is something embraced by student culture, whilst admitting you’re voting Tory receives a largely negative backlash.

Why would you vote Tory when Labour are going to cut tuition fees? Perhaps you’re worried about Corbyn’s almighty promises, or perhaps your local constituency has benefitted from a proactive Tory candidate.

In the run-up to the June 2017 election, Tom Hussey published an article on The Tab Newcastle page titled “Why I’ll be voting Conservative,” which encountered streams of negative comments after it was shared on Facebook. There’s a great stigma against being Tory voter as a student, such that these students feel obliged to stay quiet about their views. Despite this, 22 per cent of the 2,000 students we surveyed admitted they would be voting Tory this election.

However, in bombarding social media with anti-Tory propaganda, and reacting negatively in person to those who express their desire to vote Tory this week, we are stigmatising a legitimate political belief which subsequently entrenches division.

Ultimately, we have reached a situation in which we can’t properly gauge how many young Tory voters there are because many of them are too concerned to admit they are a Tory – to do so is deemed akin to social suicide. The great secrecy of student support this election could be something that wins it for the Tories.

It was certainly something that won it for Trump. Voters were too embarrassed to admit they wanted to elect him, but they did vote for him on the day it mattered. They went into the polling booth, looked over their shoulders to check no one was watching, and put a cross next to his orange name. It’s an example of something Joshi Herrmann coined as “iceberg campuses”, environments in which students choose to hide their political opinion because they fear the disapproval of others.

Ultimately, this election we could see the same thing happen. Everything could be decided at those poll booths, or by those postal votes many students are keeping secret. All this talk about young voters being a deciding factor in bringing about a Labour government; but it may in fact be the shy Tories who make the real difference.