Voting matters more than you think: 5 facts you should know
It's a vicious circle: some people don't vote because politicians fail to offer them anything worth voting for. Politicians ignore them because they don't vote. But if reluctant voters make it to the ballot box, they may have more power than they think.
1. Huge numbers didn't vote in the last general election
In 2010, the Conservative Party received the highest number of votes – just under 11 million. But twice this number – 22 million – didn't vote at all. 16 million of those were registered to vote but didn't, while 6 million were eligible to vote but did not register. That 22 million may have more power than they think.
A Hansard Society survey identified three groups who were less likely to vote: the young, people from the poorest social categories D and E, and people from ethnic minorities.
2. Young people are less likely to vote
Less than a quarter of 18-24 year olds told Hansard they were absolutely certain to vote in a general election, compared with four-fifths of those over 75. Overall, less than half of those aged under 40 were certain to vote.
Are young people getting a raw deal? It certainly looks that way when it comes to pay. A Joseph Rowntree Foundation study found that nearly 80% of people under 22 were in low-paid jobs in 2013, up from 65% in 2008. People aged 18-21 are almost three times more likely to be low paid than any other age group.
3. Poorest social categories D and E are less likely to vote
Hansard also found that members of the poorest social groupings D and E – semi-skilled and unskilled workers, and the unemployed – were less likely to vote.
One measure of how being poor affects other aspects of your life is to look at healthy life expectancy. Women do especially badly. Those living in the most deprived 10% of areas will, on average, spend 66% of their life in ‘good’ health; those in the richest areas will spend 83% in ‘good’ health. The gap for men is less marked, but still shocking: 71% compared with 85%.
4. People from ethnic minorities are less likely to vote
Hansard also found a lower likelihood to vote among people who were black or from ethnic minorities, with just over one-third certain to vote compared with more than half of white people.
This is another group getting a raw deal according to social indicators. A government report found that in 2013 nearly 40% of ethnic minority households were in "relative low income", twice the rate for white households.
5. No MP had the support of more than half of registered voters
MPs are vulnerable. If reluctant voters make it to the ballot box, they may have more power than they think. Figures from the Electoral Commission for the 2010 general election show the large number of MPs who owe their jobs to voters not turning up.
No MP had the support of more than 50% of registered voters in their own constituency. Tim Farron, Liberal Democrat, had the highest percentage support: 60% of people who voted, but only 46% if people who didn’t vote are included.
293 MPs won their seats with the votes of fewer than 30% of their registered voters.
Elections are decided by people not turning up. If all the "no-shows" voted for the second placed candidate in each constituency, with all other votes staying the same, only one MP would survive: the MP for Witney, David Cameron.
If just one in ten of the "no-shows" voted for the second placed candidate, with all other votes unchanged, 95 MPs would be toppled.
Let's give MPs a wake-up call. There are still millions of people who aren't registered. But it's not too late to register to vote in this year's general election.
Here are three things you can do now:
1. Share this page on Facebook and Twitter.
2. Sign up your workplace
Download Register Your Workplace materials to promote registration in your workplace.
3. Get registered yourself!
If you haven't already registered to vote, do it now! It's simple to get yourself on the electoral register and you can do it all online. Click the button below to get started.
Sources: (1) University of Plymouth, Electoral Commission, (2) Hansard Society, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, (3) Hansard Society, ONS, (4) Hansard Society, DWP, (5) Electoral Commission, Electoral Commission
In partnership with Ripped-off Britons.