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July 04, 2007



I'm firmly in the 18-24 bracket, have always been both interested and involved in politics, and have never voted in a general election. As you rightly point out, this is because of lack of faith in the process and the so-called leaders.
Research shows that young people are often actually more involved than older people, but that the single issue activism so popular on campuses has little do to with the outdated and increasingly irrelevant 'democratic' processes.

Paul Evans

"I suspect many of these non-voters are protestors against the Iraq war, or committed greens, or are active citizens in other ways."

Maybe some of them aren't moved enough to vote because they're reasonably relaxed about whoever will win the election?

Why is falling turnout necessarily seen as an indictment of democracy?

Paul Evans

Chris (18-24),

"...the single issue activism so popular on campuses has little do to with the outdated and increasingly irrelevant 'democratic' processes."

Can I suggest that - if your single issue campaigners get their way - the biggest single-issue campaign you will be joining in years to come will be the one that wants to reduce the power of single issue campaigners?


"It shows their lack of confidence in (managerialist?) politicians."

Not necessarily, and actually unlikely. More to do with two points:

a) Main parties which had a chance of winning were not well differentiated, so there is little point voting if you don't care who wins.

b) Labour was so likely to win that it is irrational to vote anyway, since there is a minute chance your vote changes anything.

The 'problem' of low turnout is just a symptom of the FPTP electoral system which tends towards two closely converged main parties, and majority government.

Phil A

Elections at the Week End – Are you kidding! We all have better things to do with our weekends without having to fit in staying local to vote: Leave them on Thursdays.

One suspects it he fondly imagines forcing us to vote on a weekend will increase turn out or his vote he is sadly deluded. Still it is daringly French isn’t it?

Falling turnout is not a problem with democracy, it shows a problem with the political class.

Maybe if he included a compulsory ‘None of the above’, or the chance to actually register a negative vote for candidates instead, people might be more interested.

Matt Munro

I think it just shows that 18-24 year olds have better things to do than vote - like getting laid/drunk/stoned.
More seriously I suspect that the explosion of single issue/identity politics over the last 10 years, in which younger people seem proportionately more involed, has distracted that demographic from mainstream politics.

Phil A

Matt - Not necessarily distracted.

One of the problems with main stream politics is that you have to take the orange crèmes and the coffee crèmes along with the toffee hazelnut and the nougat crunch.

Most people, even the ones who would vote for a shop dummy if it had the right rosette, if they think about it, don’t buy into all of any parties policies.

Why buy a mixed bunch of policies and promises in a manifesto (a random selection of those are likely never to be delivered on anyway) when you can get active on several key issues you really care about and pressure all parties on. Pressing issues like: Brandy Truffle, Hazelnut Cluster & Choc Coated Crystalised Ginger?


I'm 44 and I haven't voted since I was 20. For a mixture of the reasons adduced in the comments above:-

- because I disagreed with a significant proportion of the policies of all the main parties
- because I didn't disagree with ANY of the main parties strongly enough to pick "least worst" and vote against them
- because I was living in a series of constituencies with enormous majorities
- because although I might have chosen to vote for a party nationally, I objected so strongly to my local candidate at the time that I couldn't square it with my conscience to vote for her
- latterly, because there wasn't enough to choose between the policy positions of the main parties
- because the brandy truffles were more usefully promoted using less blunt instruments.

I have always liked the idea of a "none of the above" box, as Phil A suggests, which, if enough people ticked it, would cause the election to be null and void and to be run again with different leaders.


It seems to me that most of these points were just as true in the past as they are today, and that they will still be true under any system. The more the goverment does, the more points of disagreement there must be between the goverment and any particular citizen.

Only a goverment with a very small sphere of interest could agree with most people on most subjects - and in that case there would be a similar degree of agreement with the opposition.

I think most of the disillusionment of the Blair years stems from the level of expectations in 1997. Those who expect miracles were ever disappointed.



I have to disagree with your rationale for why so few young people vote. I believe low voter turnout is a vote of confidence in the country.

Far more likely are these reasons;

i) the country seems to be working pretty nicely as it is. when the credit cycle turns and we dip into recession, turnout will increase
ii) no party is promising a significantly different agenda. this will have to change with an economic slowdown.
iii) Labour were obviously going to walk the last election, so why bother. The next election will almost certainly see a larger turnout.

Also isnt the wisdom of crowds a fallacy when we talk about voters?


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