Expect low turnout for PCC elections

Anthony WellsDirector of Political and Social Research
November 14, 2012, 12:35 PM UTC

Voter turnout for the police and crime commissioner elections is likely to be even lower than the 28% who say they will vote

Much of the media speculation about Thursday's elections for Police and Crime Commissioners has focused not upon winners and losers, but how low turnout will fall.

With the election held in November with dark evenings, no free delivery for postal addresses from candidates and our polling showing the public less than convinced by the whole policy of Police and Crime Commissioners, turnout has been predicted to be very low – possibly less than the 23% recorded in the 1999 European elections, the current low for a national election.

Turnout is traditionally extremely difficult to predict in opinion polls, as respondents generally overestimate their own likelihood to vote in elections - possibly due to a desire to be seen to "do the right thing" by exercising their vote, or perhaps because people genuinely do think they'll vote, but faced with the reality of cold weather and a trek to the polling station decide against it on the day. Either way, previous work on the British Election Study, which is double-checked against the marked electoral register showing who actually voted, demonstrates that a significant proportion of even those people who say they are 10/10 certain to vote do not actually do so.

Polling on the Police and Crime Commissioners elections has shown very low proportions of people saying they are certain to vote in Thursdays elections, our most recent survey had only 28% saying they would, with previous surveys showing even lower figures. However looking at past questions on turnout and how they have compared to actual turnout at elections, we predict that the actual proportion of people who turn out to vote on Thursday is likely to be much lower.