As in many Western democracies, voter apathy is a current concern, after a dramatic decline in election turnout recently. Turnout fell from 77% in 1992, and 71% in 1997, to a historic low of 59% in 2001. It increased to 61% in 2005, and 65% in 2010. The main reasons identified for low turnout are:
- Lack of variation between the ideologies of the main parties.
- Decline in partisanship as many voters are no longer permanently loyal to one party.
- Reduction in the popularity of various party leaderships.
- Dissatisfaction with parties' record on public services, education, transport etc.
- Lack of interest in the election campaign.
- Voters believing their vote will have no effect on the overall outcome. There is an inverse relationship between turnout in a constituency and the winning candidate's majority in that seat.
- Unpopularity of First Past The Post amongst the many smaller political parties such as Liberal Democrats, Green Party, SNP etc. as well as amongst some political commentators and academics such as Medhi Hasan.
Possible measures to increase turnout include:
- Compulsory voting
- Electoral reform, towards proportional representation, advocated by the Liberal Democrats, Green Party and many other minor parties
- New voting methods such as post, telephone, and internet. There were several criminal proceedings after the last general election which highlighted weaknesses in the postal voting system and resulted in a cooling of enthusiasm for IT and proxy arrangements.
- Lowering the voting age, which has recently seen support, most notably the 'Votes for 16' campaign which was launched in 2003. Furthermore lowering the voting age to 16 is endorsed by independent commissions such as the Commission on Local Governance in England and the Human Rights Commission in Northern Ireland.
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