Election forecasts

Will turnout be up or down?

The highest turnout in any general election of the past half-century was in February 1974: a contest that resulted in a hung parliament and a period of minority government. Almost four out of five people on the electoral roll voted in that election. Will a similar number feel moved to vote in this election, and when the outcome is tipped to be almost identical to that of 41 years ago?

I’d like to say yes, but I’m pretty sure the answer will be no. Turnout was just 65.3% at the last election in 2010. To equal the figure for February 1974, it would need to jump 13.5 percentage points. Such an increase has never happened in two consecutive elections in the last 50 years. Turnout hasn’t even struggled back to the level it was in 1997, let alone 1974:


What’s a good guess for 2015? It would intensely disappointing were turnout to end up down on 2010. Closer to 70% than 60% would be welcome, simply by virtue of being an improvement on 2010, no matter how small.

It might be that a rise in engagement prompted by the increased profile of the SNP, Ukip and the Greens will be offset by the predicted fall in the number of people eligible to vote, so we end up with roughly the same figure as five years ago.

I haven’t noticed any politicians coming out with bold predictions, in the way Nigel Farage did before last year’s European elections and Alex Salmond before the Scottish referendum. But then a vague air of procedural listlessness has cloaked this campaign. Nobody is being bold or exceptional about anything. It’d be nice if at least one of the leaders said something about turnout, if only to show that they have bothered to give it a thought.


3 responses to ‘Will turnout be up or down?

  1. I wouldn’t have thought voter registration would have that great an effect on turnout (maybe just 2% or something) – the people who haven’t registered to vote are likely to people who wouldn’t have voted anyway.

  2. On the long-term decline in turnout: Tony Blair was brilliant at winning elections, but he did so largely by homogenising British politics into the repetitive, stage-managed, uninspired dross we see so much of today, with his obsession with soundbites and spin doctors. I would have thought a large number of those 12% who stopped voting in 2001 would be from the same 10% who swung to Labour from the Tories in 1997.

  3. Only because GE2015 is so close and due to the SNP factor do I think turnout should increase but only fractionally.

    I predict 67%.

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