Britons are split on whether they would support compulsory voting

Isabelle KirkData Journalist
May 10, 2022, 1:50 PM GMT+0

Support for the policy has declined since 2015, although seven in 10 still believe voting is a duty

Compulsory voting is the legal requirement in some countries that eligible citizens must register and vote at elections. Australia’s compulsory voting system is perhaps the most famous, although Belgium, Argentina and Brazil also enforce compulsory voting for their citizens. In these countries, failing to vote can be punished with a fine, although you can spoil your ballot with no penalty.

Proponents of compulsory voting say it improves access to voting; improves the calibre of candidate choices; and gives governments elected by the system a stronger political mandate.

Opponents say compulsory voting would restrict freedom of choice, as voting is a right that citizens should not be compelled to exercise; would not incentivise politicians to inspire voters; and that forcing people to vote does not translate into an engaged electorate.

Britons are split on the issue of compulsory voting, with 45% in favour of the policy and 42% opposed. Labour voters are more likely than Conservative voters to support compulsory voting (57% vs 48%), and older Britons are also more likely to support the policy than younger Britons, by 57% for those 65 and older to 38% among 18-24 year olds.

Support for compulsory voting has declined since YouGov last asked the British public in 2015. Then, 55% were in favour of compulsory voting and 37% opposed – although the date of the last survey (7-8 April) was only a month before the 2015 general election, which may have had an impact.

One in five Britons say it is not a duty to vote

Is voting a right, or a duty? While Britons are split on whether they would support being legally required to take part in elections, seven in ten Britons (71%) believe they have a duty to vote. Around one in five (19%) believe people do not have a duty to vote in general elections.

Older Britons are considerably more likely than younger Britons to believe that voting is a duty, although the majority of younger Britons do still feel that they have a duty to participate in elections. Approaching nine in 10 of those aged 65 and older (86%) say voting is a duty, compared to 58% of 18 to 24-year-olds.

As with support for compulsory voting, Britons are slightly less likely now to think voting is a duty than they were in 2015, when 80% thought this.

See full results here and historical results here