Voter turnout for general election could be worst in modern history

Voter turnout for general election could be worst in modern history
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Britain is heading for the lowest general election turnout in modern history, pollsters have warned, after the main parties and their leaders have left many voters “politically homeless”.

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The warning of mass apathy follows Techne UK polling this week which suggests that even in the middle of an election campaign with just a month to polling day, 20 per cent of people have already decided not to vote.

The poll of 1,645 voting age British people by Techne for Independent Media reveals that while the “won’t vote” percentage of the population is normally high in non-election periods, it is expected to drop significantly during the short campaign (the period between the dissolution of parliament and election day).

Apathy is particularly high among young voters, who say their problems on issues such as housing have not been addressed by the major parties in the campaign. Among Generation Z and millennials: 38 per cent have decided not to vote; almost double the national average.

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And according to Techne 30 per cent of 18-to-34-year-olds are not even registered to vote.

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Leading pollster Robert Hayward, who is also a Tory peer, noted that many people who say they will or may vote will also not end up at polling stations on 4 July.

(Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

He believes this is because many Conservative voters in particular are angry with their party, while “Keir Starmer has failed to seal the deal and convince people he is a prime minister in waiting.”

He said: “While 80 per cent say they will or may vote a lot of those people will not vote. So the 20 per cent figure of those who do not vote will be bigger.

“I have felt that we may have a record low turnout because it is clear that a lot of voters look politically homeless.

“The key to this though is how many people asked would normally vote. If a high proportion of them would normally vote then 20 per cent is a very high figure.”

Of those who were polled 1,111 (68 per cent) voted in the last election with the remaining 534 (32 per cent) divided between people who decided not to vote and those who were too young to vote in 2019.

Julie Etchingham hosts a debate between the party leaders which descended into rancour and frequent interruptions
Julie Etchingham hosts a debate between the party leaders which descended into rancour and frequent interruptions (PA )

This means the poll had a higher proportion of voting age people in 2019 than the national proportion of those who actually turned out to vote at the last election (67 per cent). Lord Hayward noted that this made the 20 per cent “won’t vote” figure “more significant”.

Polling guru Professor Sir John Curtice agreed that polls overstate the number of people who will really vote.

He told The Independent: “What we can argue is that the conditions that facilitate a low turnout are in place.”

He went on: “Two conditions are in place that suggest a low turnout. First the large poll lead so it looks as though it’s obvious what is going to happen. Second, there are only small differences between the two largest parties so it doesn’t matter much who wins anyway. To that we can add the fact that none of the main party leaders is popular of charismatic which is why Farage can make waves.”

According to Techne UK, university-educated people are most likely not to vote, with a staggering 60 per cent planning to stay away from the polling stations.

The figure could be a rare boost for the Tories, with students much more likely to vote Labour than for them.

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But among younger voters who have decided to vote, Labour leads the Tories by 54 per cent to 14 per cent.

The findings show that only a small number of people wouldn’t vote because they don’t like their local candidates (9 per cent) suggesting that the national picture is having much more of an impact than is typical.

Of retirees (over-64s) who are most likely to abstain, 37 per cent of those polled said it was because they don’t like either party.

Meanwhile one in three people with lower education will not vote because they feel their vote doesn’t count.

Meanwhile, after rows over the party moving to the right, supporting Israel and ditching left-wing candidates, previous Labour voters are most likely to abstain because they don’t like either parties’ policies (54 per cent). Notably Unite, Britain’s biggest union, this week announced it would not endorse Labour’s manifesto.

Techne UK chief executive Michela Morizzo warned that the abstentionism will be so high that voter profiles for the main parties will change.

She said: “There is no question this election could present the lowest turnout, perhaps in election history. The key issues with those voters who say they will not vote, whether they be young or of older years, is they say that they cannot trust any political party or politician.

“This trust issue, the breakdown of the covenant between the electors and those who represent them, is the key factor for why at this election those who stay at home and don’t vote could form the largest share of the election vote ever.

“We will see in the coming weeks but probably only [whoever] is really convinced of which party deserves his vote will go to vote. This would mean not a positive scenario for the Conservatives. Time and polls will tell.”

Ms Morizzo added: “The risk of a low turnout is very high because there is abstentionism among those who voted Conservative and have lost confidence, which risks adding to the traditional abstentionism, ie the most fragile social classes. As a result of the polls, we could find an identikit of the Conservative voter that is very different from that of 2019.”

Luke Tryl from campaigning organisation More in Common warned that a lack of belief that political parties offer solutions to fixing problems in Britain is at the heart of voter cynicism and apathy.

He said: “The big question is does the time for mood change mean more people want to go out and cast their vote or does the pervasive sense of apathy and cynicism mean more people decide not to bother?

“What’s certainly true from our focus group conversations is very few people are confident that whoever wins can fix the challenges facing ‘broken’ Britain.”

An Electoral Commission spokesperson said: “A general election is an important opportunity for people to express their views, and registering is the first step to the ballot box. It’s quick and simple to apply, and with less than two weeks left until the deadline, time is of the essence.

“All voters must be registered before midnight on 18 June to take part, and those that plan to vote at a polling station need to check that they have an accepted form of ID in order to get their ballot paper. Anyone that is unable or does not want to vote at a polling station in Great Britain, can apply for a postal vote by 5pm on 19 June or a proxy vote – where someone votes on your behalf – by 5pm on 26 June. Complete these tasks and you’ll be ready to cast your vote on 4 July.”



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