Dr Ruth Fox observed that “voting levels are a manifestation of the bigger problem
of disengagement across the board, linked to a declining sense of the efficacy
of politics generally and their role in it, and a sense that the parties are
all the same, the politicians are all the same, they are not like us, it does
not make any difference”.
The second of my proposed explanations for declining levels of
voter turnout is the fact that the public no longer sees the value in voting, believing that their votes will not make a
difference. For example, in the last election, the Greens and UKIP had significant
support and under a different system would have 85 seats. In reality, they won 1
seat each, so, when people see that a significant percentage of the electorate are
completely ignored, they give up on voting.
PARAGRAPH 3: VALUE OF VOTING
The first of my proposed
explanations for the decline in voter turnout is the public’s political disengagement
and dissatisfaction. The British
Academy stated that “British society has become, for the most part, disengaged with
politics…In the case of British voters, it is important to understand the scale
and depth of their disenchantment”.
PARAGRAPH 2: POLITICAL DISENGAGEMENT AND DISSATISFACTION
A democratic country is defined as “a country that holds universal adult suffrage
national elections regularly and is described as ‘free’ by the Freedom House”1…
reducing from 75.3% in 1987 to 68.7% in the UK in 2017, suffering
substantial dips throughout this period, for example, in 2001, voter turnout
dropped to 59.4%. The same thing can be said for other democracies. For
example, voter turnout in the US during Mid-Term Elections has decreased from
60.89% of registered voters voting and 41.07% of voting age voters voting in
1986 to 54.16% of registered voters voting and 39.51% of voting age voters
voting in 2014. The same cannot be said for Presidential elections, where we
see an increase from 76.98%/56.28% voting in 1988 and 78.76%/60.52% voting in 2016.
However, the most recent statistics do show a decline from 2004 onwards.
PARAGRAPH 1: STATISTICS ON VOTER TURNOUT/ WHAT IS DEMOCRACY?
past three decades, voter turnout in the UK and other democratic countries has
decreased significantly, I will discuss what I consider to be two of the most
important explanations for this decline in voter turnout in three democratic
counties. The explanations I have chosen are political disengagement and
dissatisfaction and the reduction of the value of voting. I have chosen these
due to the fact there is significant empirical evidence supporting both
explanations, as will be explored below. The countries I will consider are the UK, the US, and New Zealand. I have chosen these countries as they are
considered to be three of the most democratic countries. New Zealand scoring
the highest out of the three on the Democratic Index at ranking at number 4 and
scoring 9.26, the UK ranking at number 16, scoring 8.36 and the US ranking at
number 21, scoring 7.98. The slight gaps between these countries may allow me
to explore whether the level of democracy (each country’s scores on the
Democratic Index) also has an impact on the level of voter turnout. The first
part of this essay will explain some statistics regarding the levels of voter
turnout, following this, I will discuss the idea that political disengagement
and dissatisfaction could be considered one of the most significant contributors
to the decline in voter turnout and how the depleting value of the vote can
cause people to refrain from voting altogether.