Young people and blacks stayed away at the general election in record numbers with only 39 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds bothering to vote, a survey has found.
The report into voter apathy by Mori and the Electoral Commission reveals widespread disaffection with the way the election campaign was run.
Two-thirds of people who said they were "very interested" in politics said they were not interested by the election campaign and 58 per cent believed that "there was little difference between what the main parties were offering".
Pensioners were the most diligent voters with more than 70 per cent going to the ballot box in an election which saw turn-out drop to 59 per cent, its lowest level since 1918.
The worrying findings will prompt a series of investigations by the Electoral Commission into how to improve turn-out among voters.
But electoral experts said that the findings were not evidence of apathy, but "a failure of the campaign to connect with the electorate". The Mori survey found that people voted mainly out of a sense of "civic duty". Sam Younger, the commission's chairman, said: "It looks like disengagement rather than apathy."
"There has been virtually no change in interest in politics in nearly 30 years," said Professor Robert Worcester, chairman of Mori. "Two-thirds did not find the campaign interesting."
One in six adults who did not vote failed to do so because they had not bothered to register and the figure rose among blacks to 27 per cent. Professional people were far more likely to vote than blue-collar workers, only 53 per cent of whom turned out to vote.
There was also a sharp discrepancy between the turn-out among white and non-white voters with 60 per cent of whites voting compared to 47 per cent among ethnic minorities.Reuse content