22nd Sep 2021

Political cynicism marred EU vote turnout

  • The EU vote turnout dropped from 62 percent in 1979 to 43 percent this June (Photo: EUobserver)

Lack of trust and interest in politics have come out as the main reasons for a record low turnout in the June elections of the European Parliament - the only EU body directly elected by people, a fresh survey has found.

Almost a third of respondents (28%) to the Eurobarometer poll, published on Tuesday (28 July), suggested that they do not trust or are not satisfied with politics in general and therefore did not cast their vote, with the argument mainly present in Greece (51%), Bulgaria (45%), Cyprus and Romania (both 44%).

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In contrast, only 8 percent of non-voters in Denmark mentioned this reason, in line with Luxembourgers (11%), Finns and Belgians (both 18%).

In Hungary, Malta and Spain, citizens who abstained from the EP vote said they were not interested in politics as such, while Latvians and Austrians overwhelmingly believed that the election of MEPs has no consequences and would not change anything - the third most frequent reason for ignoring the poll.

Across social groups in population, the lack of interest in politics was mainly present among young voters, aged 18 to 24, while disbelief that the EU's legislature and its make-up after the vote would matter for their life was mainly voiced by the unemployed and people with difficulties in paying their bills.

Only 2 percent of respondents said they did not know about the elections and more people (53%) admitted they had enough information to decide whom to vote than those who lacked the relevant facts (42%).

The election of the 736-member parliament took place between 4 and 7 June across the 27 member states, with a 43 percent turnout across the EU, down from 45 percent in the previous poll in 2004. In the very first EP election in the then 12-member club in 1979, the attendance was 62 percent.

In eight member states, this year's participation increased compared to the 2004 poll. In eight states it was about the same while in seven countries it was moderately lower and in four countries, the turnout was markedly lower.

The lowest turnout was recorded in Slovakia (19.6%) and Lithuania (20.9%), while the highest figures came from Luxembourg (91%) and Belgium (85.9%) - both countries where voting is compulsory. Malta, Italy and Denmark scored highest for countries with no obligation to vote.

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