Associate Director

Tanya Abraham explores the electorate's reasons for voting

With the opinion polls in a dead heat, one of the important factors come May 7th will be turnout. It is now too late to register to vote in this election and changes in rules means we might well see fewer people on the electoral roll this time around. But given participation is such an important issue, we have looked at how people feel about voting.

There is some good news for democracy in that nearly nine in ten (89%) of us say we have previously voted in an election of some sort, be it general, European or local. Men are more likely to have voted than women (91% to 87%) and, as might be expected, the older people get the more likely they are to have cast a ballot (although it should be noted that 18-24 year-olds have had fewer opportunities to vote).

But what drives these voters to go to the polling station and cast their ballot? The two main motivations are a sense of duty (57%) and the ability to express their opinion (54%). However, habit is also a factor, with around a third (32%) saying they vote because they always do. Less than a quarter (24%) vote to help the candidate they want to win.

On the whole, voters are more likely to have positive feelings about voting as opposed to negative – with more saying they feel “optimistic” (27%) or “excited” (12%) as feel “pessimistic” (17%) or “indifferent” (11%). However, civic duty is the predominant feeling. Almost six in ten (59%) say they feel “responsible” when they go into the voting booth – this is more than twice the proportion as those who chose the next most popular option.

Within these results there are distinct differences depending on age, however. Broadly speaking, the younger you are, the more likely it is that you will feel excited about voting. Over a quarter (26%) of 18-24 year-olds describing themselves as feeling “excited” compared to around one in twenty (6%) over-60s. However, more than seven in ten (72%) voters aged 60+ feel responsible when casting their ballots compared to just four in ten (40%) under-25s. 

The late surge to register to vote suggests that people still want to participate in the democratic process. However, our research shows that there are mixed feelings about voting. What impact this all has for turnout on 7th May remains to be seen.

See the full results

Image from PA

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