Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Explaining lower voter turnout in the EU

Worth voting for an MEP?

"A Eurobarometer poll just released indicates that 28% of those Europeans questioned probably won't vote. A startling 30% in Britain said they definitely wouldn't vote: not "perhaps not", or "maybe" - they have made up their minds they won't cast a vote...

"General disillusionment with the EU may be the reason, but this isn't very logical: Conservatives and Libertas are both very critical of the existing structure and want to change it and UKIP want to pull out. So there is no shortage of options for those who dislike the EU in greater or smaller measure.

"There's little doubt that, for good or ill, the European Parliament has gained power and will gain even more if the Lisbon Treaty ever comes into effect...

"So why the indifference? I suspect that, although a lot of our laws are made at European level (more on this next week), people find it difficult to see how their vote matters. In general elections you actually vote for an individual MP but most people think in terms of voting for a government and a prime minister.

"In elections for the European Parliament things are not so clear-cut... [I]f the Socialists, currently the second largest party, became the largest power block instead of the Christian Democrats, what difference would it make?...

"Labour MEP Richard Corbett... suggests that this is not a specifically European effect: turnout for the mid-term congressional elections in the US is even lower. Again voters are not choosing a government. There is a general trend of falling turnout in most elections. I've just being talking to some visiting academics and one suggested that his vote changed nothing: it was lobby groups and NGOs that make a real impact, whether in Brussels or Westminster. Does voting change anything?..."

What You Need to Know -- a study guide for AP Comparative Government and Politics

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