Oct 5, 2019
The turnout figure for the last European Parliament (EP) elections reached an all-time low of 42.6% in 2014. By combining data from all European countries, our new maps reveal differences between countries and distinct regional patterns.
Datastory has collected detailed turnout data for every EU member country in over 95,000 local districts. It is an ongoing exploration that we have open sourced so that media and researchers can contribute to a better understanding of democratic development in Europe. All maps are available for reprint in high-resolution.
Perhaps one of the most noticeable trends in the map above is the low turnout numbers in Slovakia (13%), the Czech Republic (18%), and Poland (24%). Some districts even reported numbers below 5%. The combined population in these three countries exceed 50 million people and a higher turnout here would have a significant impact on the average turnout in the EU.
Let us zoom out to the entire EU region again and highlight all districts where the turnout falls below 40%.
Of the 95,000 districts in Datastory's analysis, roughly 27,000 fall in this bucket. Analysing the results at this level of detail reveals that low participation rates are more geographically spread out than national averages might suggest.
In countries like the United Kingdom and Finland, the vast majority of districts reported numbers in the range of 20 to 40 percent, pulling the EU average down.
So why aren't more people voting? In a post-election survey, the most common responses included a lack of trust in or dissatisfaction with politics in general, not being interested in politics and not believing that voting changes anything. However, none of the most common answers for abstaining referenced EU politics specifically.
On the other end of the spectrum you find countries with compulsory voting like Belgium (90%) and Luxembourg (86%). The turnout figures in the green areas were in the range of 60-100%.
The post-election survey found that there were three main issues that motivated people to vote: unemployment, economic growth and immigration.
On April 24 the European Parliament posted a video on Youtube that has since gone viral. It is part of a campaign trying to increase voting numbers. A quote from the clip hints at what the EU believes are issues that encourages people:
"Together in Europe we can lead the way and reduce climate change. Make the borders safe. Fight terrorism. Together, we can promote peace, equality, rights and democracy."
The north and south of Italy differ in many respects, with the former being generally more wealthy and industrialised than the latter. The division is visible in political party preference, and as it turns out, in voter turnouts as well.
While over 57% of eligible voters participated on average – among the highest in the EU – many districts in the south, and on Sardinia, reported much lower numbers.
Three years after the Brexit referendum, the United Kingdom is about to participate in yet another election to the European Parliament. In the 2014 election, most of the country's districts attracted less than 40% of people to the ballot boxes.
While some districts such as Cambridge and parts of London reported slightly higher numbers, the area that stands out the most is Northern Ireland (which also has somewhat different electoral system).
One of the few countries that actually saw a higher proportion of people voting compared to the 2009 EU election was Sweden, where every second eligible voter participated. The lowest numbers ranged from about 20%, the highest just above 80%. In comparison, 87% of people participated in the national election in 2018.
According to the post-election survey, nearly 6 out of 10 Swedish women voted, while just over 4 out of 10 Swedish men did.
Are you interested in doing your own analysis with our data? You can find all source code, statistics, and maps on Github.