The term turnout used means what percentage of the electorate participated and voted in the election, for example in 2010 there was an approximate 65% turnout. Turnout can be very useful to study for political scientists as it highlights political apathy and has shown how over the last few decades voting percentages have drastically decreased. This is clearly a worrying factor as it is important that as many people cast their vote in order to have their opinion heard.
When viewing the previous data on turnout out it is evident that the percentages have decreased with a slight increase in the 2010 elections, this has led many commentator to label the situation as a ‘participation crisis’. However clearly more needs to be evaluated before coming to a ‘crisis’ conclusion.
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With such public apathy being apparent it worries the government as the whole British political system is based around the public voicing their opinions.
In addition, ‘participation’ is much more than just turnout. ‘Participation’ means being involved with politics in any way, for example signing petitions or joining rallies. It is also clear that in a survey conducted in 2000 these numbers were very low. Only 5% of those asked said they had attended a political meeting or rally, these events are key in the political landscape as they allow the public to freely express their views and with not many people using these any more a breakdown in British politics can be seen.
Lastly, turnout in referenda may be useful to show how politics hasn’t always involved high turnouts as throughout the history of the referendum there has been only a few high turnouts, with the majority being reasonably low. For example the 1973 referendum only had a 58% turnout however now we have seen a recent high in turnout with 85% of the allocated electorate voting in the 2014 Scottish Independence referendum. This shows how political participation may not all be bad and with referenda like this showing increases in public interest, the term crisis may not be necessary.
Ultimately, the evidence has shown that there has been a downwards pattern in terms of participation, however with election turnouts and referenda turnouts increasing it is impossible to label the situation as a crisis. It is important to note though that there is still a lot which needs to be done as the situation whilst not a crisis should still be improved as very low participant numbers in rallies and meetings are highlighting worrying public apathy.