Dear Politicians: Are you TRYING to drive down turnout?
When Survation asked people in Scotland six weeks before last year’s referendum how likely they were to vote, 78% of voters said they were 100% certain they were going to go to the polls. As we approached polling day, this figure increased to 94%.
When you ask the same question to voters in this election, with five weeks to go, that same figure comes to a measly 59%.
There are a lot of questions about why voter turnout keeps dropping. Many are suggesting that the paper ballot is old-fashioned and that we need to look at online voting in order to get the youth out to vote.
But if that were the case, why did they come out in force in the referendum? There is no way that the 85% turnout would have been possible otherwise.
The referendum last year was a contest between two paths of Scotland. Whether you agreed with them or not, both Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling offered a vision for the future of Scotland. People saw the futures of their country and their families in their hands, and dinnertime conversation often included the merits and risks of both staying in the UK and becoming independent.
Ultimately, people were able to connect with one vision or the other. That’s why they turned up.
Now, I ask the politicians, where is your vision for this country after the election campaign? Apart from the SNP and perhaps UKIP, none of the parties I saw at last week’s leaders’ debate offered a vision for the country. Most of their time was spent instead trying to sling mud at each other and give us reasons to not vote for their opponents (rather than reasons to vote for them).
What’s missing in UK general elections is a sense of vision to which the people of the United Kingdom can connect. Unless a politician decides to start providing one, we can expect voter turnout to continue dropping for some time.