NEWS7 May 2015

Understanding why people don't vote

News UK

UK — It’s time to address the real reasons why people don’t vote, not the ones they may purport, says broadcaster and author Peter York, if we want to address low turnout.


In his article ‘Stop listening to what non-voters say, and find out what they mean’ for the Market Research Society’s democratic engagement Delphi Group initiative, York talks about the reasons young people, in particular, give for not voting and how they are invariably untrue.

In polls and vox pops, people – particularly young ones – are forever saying they’re not voting ‘because it doesn’t change anything’, or ‘because they’re all the same’, or because ‘they’re (politicians) all out for themselves’, or ‘they’re all actively corrupt’, or ‘they’re not like me – they’re all part of the (London) political class’, or even’how can a 50-something year old man have anything to say to a 19-year-old woman like me?’

“We’ve heard all these and more in a positive crescendo recently. It’s almost entirely second-hand received opinion by now – and a lot is manifestly untrue. If you try to unpack it in qualitative research, it falls apart … people admit they don’t know much but start saying instead that they’re very busy, they’re not policy wonks anyway and – with younger potential voters – that it’s all a bit boring,” he says.

York argues that one of the problems is that politicians dare not admit, especially in public, that voters might be ignorant or lazy; instead they must always refer to them as being “savvy” or “more informed” than previous generations.

But while politicians may publicly have to say this, behind the scenes political strategists know different. “The people who have to use research very swiftly and effectively, to turn it into campaigning strategy. Those people know, they have to – the extent to which people rationalise their ignorance,” says York.

So his argument, is that to address low turnout in this general election, rather than focusing on vain attempts to make politicians seem more relevant, we have to be honest and realistic as to why people are staying at home instead of voting, even if that involves facing up to some uncomfortable realities.

For Peter York’s full article go here.