What Explains the Decline of Voter Turnout in Parliamentary Elections over the Last 40 Years? Discuss with Reference to at Least Three West European States

Topics: Election, Voter turnout, Elections Pages: 7 (2583 words) Published: December 8, 2005
What explains the decline of voter turnout in parliamentary elections over the last 40 years? Discuss with reference to at least Three West European states

In the following essay I will discuss the reasons which could be responsible for the decline of the voter turnout in parliamentary elections over the last 40 years. I will reference to the following countries, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and also France and Switzerland for a better understanding of the subject. First I will give a short overview of the topic of voter turnout in Western Europe and the reasons of why voter turnout is declining and what is done by the states to help and solve this issue to then move on and look at the situation in the specific countries.

If you look at the statistics of voter turnout of the last 40 years you can see that voter turnout is not a new issue. But voter turnout has become a more extensively debated issue in Western Europe during the 1990s and the average turnout for elections has indeed declined since the early 1990s.These issues of declining voter turnouts are brought up with "particular concern …after spectacular drops such as the 12 per cent drop in the UK between the general elections of 1997 and 2001….There was a decline in turnout in 11 of the 15 member states between the 1994 and 1999 European elections …" The debate as to whether this decline in voter turnout reflects a significant long-term shift in the willingness of Western European electors to participate in democracy through the act of voting is still ongoing. Of course there is a difference between a low and a declining turnout. A low turnout means a constant low turnout in a country, as found in Switzerland. "Turnout in Switzerland is amongst the lowest in Western Europe" Whereas a decline in voter turnout "indicates change, and could indicate dissatisfaction or a change of perception of the impact of the political system…"

There are, however, consistent findings that the voter turnout is related to political systems, frameworks and institutions. Such as, proportional representation systems tend to be associated with higher turnout…"while, the call for citizens to visit the polling station ‘too frequently' to participate in elections and/or referenda may depress turnout" Also, political sociologists assume that a country's social and economic features, such as material prosperity and levels of education, will be one of the primary influences on electoral participation. In fact when the public was asked in a survey, why they were not inclined to vote, the outcome was that "20% of the people who did not vote said that is was simply to inconvenient for them to do so.16% failed to vote as they were on holiday at the time, 11% did not receive a polling card and 10% said that they had no political interest at all. These factors combine to create the low percentage of the people voting in elections. However, there are other reasons which could play an important role in the decline of voter turnout. For example, the fact that people have to be more mobile in their jobs today as well as in many families both parents have a job which means people are busier and have got less time to vote. And also voting needs to be made easier for the elderly and the disabled. This problem of no time is tried to be solved by electronic voting, "Remote voting and electronic voting have become prominent on the agenda in Europe as politicians and electoral authorities attempt to attract young voters and busy voters by enabling them to vote at the supermarket, over the Internet or by using their mobile phone." A few cantons in Switzerland and the UK have actually tried e-voting and also postal voting. A factor that adds up with this and makes people even less likely to vote is that people feel that their vote has no impact anyway. Also, another discussion is the one about if there is a connection between the role of media and electoral turnout. Is the existence of more and...

Bibliography: 1. http://www.idea.int; Voter turnout in Western Europe since 1945
2. http://www.planet-thanet.fsnet.co.uk
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