General Election 2015 explained: Turnout

Continuing our daily miscellany celebrating the facts, figures and folklore of British general elections

Monday 04 May 2015 18:57
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Voters queuing up to vote at a polling station in St. Pancras, London in 1937
Voters queuing up to vote at a polling station in St. Pancras, London in 1937

Trends

Voter turnout in the UK is in long-term decline but has increased in recent elections. In 1918, turn-out was artificially low (57.2 per cent) because of the First World War. Thereafter, it fluctuated through the 20th century but never fell below 70 per cent.

The 21st century has been a different matter. In 2001, just 59.4 per cent of the electorate voted. Turn-out recovered slightly in 2005 to 61.4 per cent – and then in 2010 65.1 per cent of the electorate voted.


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Turn-out for last year’s European Parliament elections was 34.19 per cent in the UK, compared with an EU-wide average of 43.09 per cent.

Anomalies

In the 2010 general election, the proportion of the total electorate that voted for the winning party (36.1 per cent) was only fractionally higher than the proportion that did not vote (34.9 per cent).

In the 2005 general election, the non-voters (39 per cent) outnumbered those who voted for the winning party (21 per cent of all those who could have voted).

72 per cent of Scots say they would definitely vote in a general election, according to the survey (Getty)

Local variations

Voters in Scotland are significantly more likely to say that they are certain to vote: 72 per cent, compared with a national average of 49 per cent..

The constituency with the highest turn-out in the 2010 general election was East Renfrewshire, with 73 per ceNT.

At the other end of the scale, a mere 44.3 per cent of the Manchester Central electorate bothered to vote in 2010.

Projections

The Hansard Society’s most recent Audit of Political Engagement, published in March, suggested that just 49 per cent of the electorate are certain to vote in the 2015 general election.

In an Ipsos-Mori poll in February, seven per cent of adults said they were certain not to vote.

Age

There is a correlation between age and likelihood of voting. Only 50 per cent of men aged 18-to-24, and 39 per cent of women, voted in 2010’s general election. Among those aged 55 and over, 76 per cent of men and 73 per cent of women voted.

Only 16 per cent of 18-to-24-year-olds are certain to vote in an election, while 30 per cent in this age category told the Hansard Society that they are certain not to vote.

Voters aged over 75 are more than four times as likely to be “absolutely certain to vote” than voters aged 18-to-24

In a ComRes survey in February, only 60 per cent of 18-to-24-year-olds said they cared who won the coming general election.

Party allegiance

According to the Hansard Society, just 76 per cent of people who say they are strong supporters of a party also say they are certain to vote.

Those who identify themselves as supporters of the Conservative Party are nearly 50 per cent more likely to say that they are certain to vote than those who say that they support Labour.

Women have become less likely to vote over the years. In 2010 just 64 per cent of women voted, compared with 67 per cent of men (Getty)

Gender

Women have become less likely to vote over the years. In the 1992 general election, more women voted than men (78.2 per cent to 77.2 per cent). In 2010, however, just 64 per cent of women voted, compared with 67 per cent of men.

Men are more likely than women to describe themselves as interested in politics. In the Hansard Society’s most recent Audit of Political Engagement, 55 per cent of men said that they were interested, compared with 43 per cent of women. Men are also (predictably) more likely to claim to be knowledgeable about politics.

Race

Whereas 52 per cent of white voters consider themselves absolutely certain to vote, the equivalent figure for black and ethnic minorities is 33 per cent.

On Tuesday: No.21 voting

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