European elections

Nigel Farage expects a ‘record turnout’, but what’s the figure to beat?

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, Nigel Farage forecast a “record turnout” in the European elections.

It’s rare to hear a politician talking up the likelihood of a bumper poll, particularly outside of a general election. But it is somewhat in keeping with Farage’s fondness for heightening expectations instead of the more conventional approach of dampening them down.

Whether he’ll be proved right is another matter. Here is the UK turnout in every European election dating back to the first such contest in 1979:

EU election turnouts

The one to beat is 2004: 38.5%.

My instinct is that won’t happen, though the final figure will probably be – as is so often the case – in the mid-30s.

It’s curious that, for all the waxing and waning of the EU’s popularity through the years, turnout in elections hasn’t been that inconsistent.

The one exception is 1999, which the then-Tory leader William Hague tried to frame as a “battle against the euro”. The Tories topped that particular poll, though it did them not a jot of good come the general election two years later.

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