Voter turnout has been trending down for decades. Is this a problem? Or should we not care about people who don’t care about voting, and just work on having better informed people who have an interest in voting?
The Opportunities Party has just released policy on democracy – The Opportunities Party – Democracy Reset – and has a detailed look at voter turnout data.
1. The Data
Fewer and fewer people have confidence in our democracy. They simply don’t see voting as something that impacts on their lives. This is illustrated by the voter turnout.
In addition there’s a difference in the enthusiasm to vote between the age groups. The babyboomers are the most enthusiastic voters. In the 2014 election, 85% of eligible Baby Boomers or older voted (81% of that total cohort).
But for those under 50, only 70% of registered (or 51% of that total cohort) voted and it gets a lot lower for those under 30. For this cohort – weighed down by student debt and the prohibitive cost of getting on the first rung of the property ladder – only 62% of the registered (45% of the number of under 30’s) bothered to vote.
This alienation from the democratic process is not just a New Zealand phenomenon – right across the Western World, people are increasingly frustrated that their democracies are not serving them. There is even a significant difference in opinion on the value of keeping democracy between young and old. In the US 43% of oldies see it as illegitimate for the military to take over if the government is incompetent, yet only 19% of millennials feel like that. And in Europe the numbers were 53% and 36% respectively. The generation divide – wherein younger ones feel our so-called “democratic” government is not serving their interests – is stark.
Such a dichotomy between young and old can be seen from the following graph.
Percentage of people (identified by birth year) who believe it is “essential” to live in a democracy
In our view there are three issues to address;
- the absence of an independent body that holds the government of the day to account on long term issues
- not enough empowerment of communities and direct participation for voters
- the lack of a well articulated and widely valued Constitution that makes it clear what all New Zealanders’ rights are